Meet Your Producers: Rick Worley and Mary Ryan of Puna Gardens
Updated: May 25
Puna Gardens is a small, family owned farm near Kurtistown. It officially began in 1984 as a tropical flower farm. The family worked with various plants such as bonsai and cut tropical flowers. In 2004 a friend of Rick and Mary’s purchased over 2,500 peach palm seeds which began to sprout at the same time. Rick and Mary adopted close to 1,500 of these seeds, which marked the beginning of Puna Gardens hearts of palm orchard.
Peach Palms (Bactris gasipaes) have edible hearts and are the palm variety that make up Puna Gardens Hearts of Palm orchard. Since 2004, Puna Gardens has grown to encompass more than 60 acres and roughly 20,000 palm trees. The time from planting to the first harvest for palm heart is usually 18 to 24 months. The peach palm is a clumping palm. It grows 65 to 100 ft tall (20–31 m), with multiple stems (trunks) 4 to 12 inches (10–31 cm) in diameter. As one stem dies or is cut off, others replace it.
Rick and Mary were so kind to offer the DA BOX produce team a tour of their property and the experience to harvest some of their own hearts of palm. Visit daboxbigisland.org for videos that show the process from the field to the final product.
Rick and Gordon at the peach palm nursery with a palm seedling.