Hearts of palm are a vegetable harvested from the inner core and growing bud of certain palm trees (notably coconut (Cocos nucifera), juçara (Euterpe edulis), Açaí palm (Euterpe oleracea), palmetto (Sabal spp.), and peach palm. They are the delicious, crunchy vegetable harvested from the center of the palm tree. Though they resemble white asparagus, the flavor is much more delicate, making them extremely versatile. Harvesting of many uncultivated or wild single-stemmed palms results in palm tree death (e.g. Geonoma edulis). However, other palm species are clonal or multi-stemmed plants (e.g. Prestoea acuminata, Euterpe oleracea) and moderate harvesting will not kill the entire clonal palm. Heart of palm may be eaten on its own, and often it is eaten in a salad.

Hearts of palm has been eaten for thousands of years in Central and South America. Even prior to Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World, the Carib Indians were eating both the nuts and the hearts of palm of the Sabal Palmetto tree, while using its bark and leaves as the building material. In Florida, where they also grow abundantly, the trees were cut down as a food source during the Great Depression. The Sabal Palmetto tree is now the state tree of Florida and is a protected species under state law. The fruit of the palm was the most important source of food in pre-Columbian times.

Compared to Other Palms

An alternative to the wild heart of palm is palm varieties that have become domesticated farm species. The main variety that has been domesticated is Bactris gasipaes (peach palm). This variety is the most widely used for canning. Peach palms are self-suckering and produce multiple stems, up to 40 on one plant, so harvesting must be done in moderation to avoid killing the tree. 

Another advantage it has over other palms is that it has been selectively bred to eliminate the vicious thorns of its wild cousins. Since harvesting is still labor intensive, palm hearts are regarded as a delicacy. 

As of 2008, Costa Rica was the primary source of fresh palm hearts in the U.S. The Edible Palm Company located in Orlando, Florida, has been the largest importer of sustainably farmed fresh hearts of palm from Costa Rica to the United States since 2002. Peach palms are also cultivated in Hawaii, and now have limited distribution on the mainland, primarily to the restaurant trade. Florida’s wild Sabal palmetto or cabbage palm was once a source of hearts of palm but is now protected by conservation law.

How to Use Hearts of Palm

  • Hearts of Palm and Cress Salad: Here the hearts of palm are tossed in a refreshing salad with watercress, tomatoes, salty olives, and juicy navel oranges.
  • Hearts of Palm Dip: A little bit of garlic, lime zest, and olive oil transform canned hearts of palm into a luscious, low-fat dip.
  • Hearts of Palm Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette: The citrusy dressing on this Caribbean-inspired hearts of palm salad is marvelously dense with fresh cilantro, shallots, lemon juice, and honey. The oranges here release juice as they sit, so be sure to serve the salad right after you make it.
  • Crabless Cakes with Hearts of Palm & Corn: When chopped, hearts of palm break down into shreds that look like fresh crab meat. Here they get seasoned with Old Bay, vegan mayonnaise and Dijon mustard for a sensational main course.
  • Hearts of Palm and Avocado Salad: This Brazilian-style salad might taste a bit rich with creamy avocado and a mayonnaise dressing–but it’s really quite healthy
  • Quinoa, Artichoke and Hearts of Palm Salad: This crunchy salad is tossed with a tart dressing of wine vinegar and avocado oil.
  • Ensalada de Palmitos (Hearts of Palm Salad): This simple but universally popular mixture is equally good as a side dish or an appetizer spread.
hearts of palm

When harvesting the cultivated young palm, the tree is cut down and the bark is removed, leaving layers of white fibers around the center core. During processing, the fibers are removed, leaving the center core or heart of palm. The center core is attached to a slightly more fibrous cylindrical base with a larger diameter. The entire cylindrical center core and the attached base are edible. The center core is considered more of a delicacy because of its lower fiber content. Hearts of palm are rich in fiber, potassium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, copper, vitamins B2, B6, and C.

In this cold weather with an abundance of snow, it’s fun to taste a little bit of tropical warmth and sunshine. Hearts of palm is the perfect ingredient to add to dishes and salads. It is firm and tender, but subtle in taste, making it an ideal texture-forward ingredient for refreshing salads. 

Hearts of palm comes from the interior of palm trees. The heart is bright white and tender and lies beneath the 5th layer of the trunk within the tree. Today, this vegetable is farmed in Costa Rica and Hawaii within the USA. It also grows wildly throughout Brazil and so is a staple in the Brazilian diet.

Hearts of palm is hand-harvested and takes extensive time to undertake because of the many layers of bark that must be removed to get to the tender heart. For this reason, it is considered a delicacy. It is also nutritious, a carbohydrate with some protein and fiber and high in calcium and vitamin C. It adds such wonderful texture to dishes but is subtle in taste and so will let the other flavors within a dish take center stage. It’s the contribution of texture to a dish.

This ingredient is mostly used in salads, but can also be incorporated into dips and sandwiches, pastas and risottos. Massa ao Molho de Frango e Palmito, known in English as Pasta with Chicken and Palm Hearts, is a Brazilian classic featuring this ingredient. Hearts of palm can be used as an affinity with ingredients like artichokes, avocados, tomatoes, chicken, shrimp, to name a few. This salad sings with the tropical flavors of mango and lime, a wonderful interlude to our winter blues.

HEALTH BENEFITS

The health benefits of the 2 tree cores mirror each other: their high fiber content keeps your digestive system in tip-top shape; both are very low in cholesterol which makes them very effective weight loss foods that taste good at the same time and they are simply great in regulating your blood pressure with their rich supplies of potassium. Hearts of palm are ideal for maintaining a balanced diet due to its low-calorie contribution. In addition, the type of calories given by hearts of palm, are important in order to have energy when doing physical activity.

  • Salak Fruit: Unlike the rod-shaped palm heart, the scaly-skinned top-like salak palm fruits are found growing in clusters right at the base of the palm. Nothing beats eating fruits picked straight off the tree. An excellent supplementary food, salak fruits are good. For your eyes, because of beta-carotene; for your brain owing to its potassium and pectin, and for your skin, with their anti-oxidants just like Vitamin-C and also phenolic compounds.
  • Sago Palm Fruits: Yet another palm, the queen sago (Cycas circinalis), tagged ‘Bread from the Wild’, used to stand the tallest among all the other palms. A welcome addition to the Asian diet, it still boasts of producing a flour just as good as rice flour. The green Cycas seeds, looking like ambarella fruits, are boiled in water for more than three times, and then left to dry, before being grounded into flour for the making of bread. This is a rare instance of a seed whose nutritious value matches that of a grain.

Once in a while, to spur on your flagging appetite, you can take some of with these native whole foods. Good, honest, real-tasting food, as only foragers will know, can make an uplifting, enjoyable eating experience which is also satisfying to the core. Feeding plants lead naturally to an interest in trees; just as wholesome home feeding, to whole foods, natural remedies, and a plant-based diet. Due to the high content of zinc in the hearts of palm, consuming hearts of palm will help heal wounds faster, so you can safely continue your daily routine. The high content of vitamin C in the palm is favorable to maintain high defenses of the body, as this vitamin is essential for the development of the immune system. Due to its high content of fiber, hearts of palms fight constipation improving your digestive system.

Brazilian hearts of palm salad with tomatoes and avocado

RECIPE

It’s more or less Sardi’s Hearts of Palm recipe as Mad Men interpreted it. This includes:

  • 1 can heart of palm
  • 6 thin slices pimento
  • 4 Tablespoons vinaigrette dressing (see recipe below)
  • Vinaigrette Dressing
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 14 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 dill pickle
  • 1 teaspoon capers, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped pimento
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped hard-boiled egg white
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 14 olive oil.

PREPARATION

Place the finely chopped onion in a small bowl and add the vinegar. Chop the rest of the ingredients and add them to the small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and add the olive oil. Stir thoroughly. Keep in refrigerator. Always stir before using. Slice the hearts of palm into 4 inch round slices. Place in a serving bowl. Stir in two tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Taste and add more dressing if necessary.

PICADILLOHEARTS OF PALMTUNA AND POTATO

Ingredients

  • Salt to taste,
  • Whole hearts of palm,
  • Oil, the necessary,
  • Garlic finely chopped,
  • chopped Onion,
  • Sweet pepper chopped,
  • 1 tbsp. annatto,
  • 1/2 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes, 2 cans of tuna, chopped coriander.

Preparation

Sauté in a pan the oil and add the garlic and the onion. Next, add the bell pepper and annatto. Sauté well and add the potatoes. Leave all in the cooking pan until it is completely cooked. Once ready, add the tuna, the chopped hearts of palm and potato. Stir enough to thoroughly mix the ingredients.

Voilá, it is ready to serve!

HEARTS OF PALM & ASPARAGUS GRILL

Ingredients:

  • 1 palm hearts (canned),
  • 10 asparagus (green),
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil,
  • salt (grain),
  • 1 cup vinegar (white wine),
  • 1 bay leaf,
  • 1 teaspoon pepper (grain),
  • 1 red onion,
  • 2 eggs,
  • 2 cup butter,
  • 2 tablespoons salt brown

PREPARATION

Reduce the vinegar with chopped onion, bay leaf, and pepper. When boiling enough drain it and add the egg yolks and salt. This should be beaten in a double boiler until it forms a creamy texture. Then you must add the melted butter. Meanwhile, maintain in the grill the hearts of palm and the asparagus and keep adding coarse salt during cooking. When serving, you must first place the golden palm and pour over the sauce.

HEARTS OF PALM MOUSSE

Ingredients

1 teaspoon olive oil, 1 grated onion, 2 medium tomatoes (peeled, seeded and chopped), 400 g of hearts of palm chopped, 200 g ricotta cheese, 1 cup heavy cream, Salt, 1 envelope unflavored gelatin

PREPARATION

First, brown the onions next to the tomatoes in a pan with oil over medium heat for a few minutes. Then add the cheese, hearts of palm, heavy cream and salt. Next, mix well and cook for 3 minutes. During this time stir constantly. On the other hand, make the gelatin and then mixed it with the prepared hearts of palm until you get a homogeneous mix. After achieving this mixture, place the mixture into a rectangular container and keep it for 3 hours in the refrigerator. When it’s rather firm, remove it from the container and enjoy.

CHICKEN IN SAUCE OF PALM

Ingredients

  • 1/2 kg clean cut chicken fajitas,
  • 1/2 cup olive oil,
  • 1 teaspoon pepper,
  • 2 garlic cloves,
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary defoliated,
  • Salt to taste,
  • 1 can of sliced palm,
  • 1/2 I fresh cream
  • Cheese into small cubes,
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • and pepper

PREPARATION

Start mixing the olive oil, green pepper, garlic and rosemary in a blender. Then, add salt to the mixture. With this mixture marinated chicken is placed in a closed container and refrigerated at least 2 hours. After this time, the chicken is fried in a pan. Meanwhile, in another pan fry in the palm and the butter and let simmer for a few minutes. Next, add the sweet cream and cook until you have a thick consistency. To finish the recipe, the chicken is placed in a special baking sheet, cover it with salt and add the diced cheese. Bake until the cheese is golden and melted, to taste.

HEARTS OF PALM CAKES

Ingredients

  • 1 13 oz jar of La Cima Hearts of Palm (drained),
  • 1 tablespoon of flax meal,
  • 3 tablespoons of water,
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (vegan),
  • 2 green onions (diced),
  • 1/4 cup of red, yellow or orange bell pepper (diced),
  • 1 celery stalk (diced),
  • 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice,
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt,
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper,
  • 1/4 teaspoon of kelp,
  • 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise (vegan),
  • 1 teaspoon of whole grain mustard,
  • and 1 cup of breadcrumbs

PREPARATION

In a bowl mix the flax and the water, adding one tablespoon of water at a time. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Sauté onions, bell peppers and celery in butter. Pull strands of the palm heart, from the outer part towards the inside. Once you get to the center it is mushy and you can just add this part to the mix. In another bowl mix all the ingredients together. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and grease a cookie sheet. Using a tablespoon (depending on the size you want) use the mixture to form the cakes. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking time.