What Are Hearts of Palm?

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Chef Laura Frankel
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Hearts-of-Palm-Recipes

Heart of palm, also called palm heart, aristocrat's plantar and swamp cabbage, is a vegetable harvested from the inner core and growing bud of certain palm trees.

Hearts of palm are vegetables harvested from the soft core of a palm tree. They are extremely popular in Latin American cuisine, and are exported both fresh and canned to other parts of the world. France is the largest importer, with centers of export in several Latin American nations including Puerto Rico and Brazil. Many vegetarians use hearts of palm in their recipes, blending the vegetables to make spreads, eating them plain, or adding them to salads.

Hearts of Palm have always been considered an expensive menu item. Some of the cost is due to shipping. However, most of the cost is due to the fact that in order to harvest the heart the entire tree must be sacrificed. In response to this issue, several palms were domesticated and bred specifically for production of this vegetable. These trees have multiple stems, allowing farmers to harvest the hearts while allowing the rest of the tree to live. Still, Hearts of Palm are almost always found canned in the United States.

Tender hearts of palm have a mild buttery taste with a soft crunchy texture. Often used in salads, hearts of palm also can be found in some savory hot recipes.

Hearts of palm are high in protein, fiber, vitamin c and minerals. Because they are canned, palm hearts are also high in sodium. Before I use them in any recipe, I rinse the thoroughly in cold water to remove the “canned” flavor and excess sodium.

Modern Millionaire’s Salad with Hibiscus-Lime Vinaigrette

Here I am sharing a popular salad from the 1960’s, Millionaire’s salad. The salad had thinly sliced rings of tender hearts of Palm, lettuce and other items depending upon the chef’s whim. The salad was called the millionaire’s salad due to the fact that the ingredients were considered to be expensive. The salad usually consisted of palm hearts, artichoke hearts, pimentos and other items.

My version tastes like a million! I like the tropical flavor of palm hearts and have paired them with other tropical flavors.  After all, the ingredients that best together tend to grow together.

Hibiscus vinaigrette has a tart-floral flavor that pairs well with the buttery palm hearts. I have also included almonds for extra crunch and flavor. If you do not want almonds, feel free to substitute cashews or other nuts or seeds.

hearts-of-palm-fritters-joyofkosher

My other favorite way to use Hearts of Palm are in Fritters with Garlic Aioli.

How do you use hearts of palm?