Hearts Of Palm 101

Does your cupboard hold a dusty can filled with mysterious hearts of palm? Have you forever been mystified by this retro product? No more! Today is the day to dust it off and figure out the best way to eat this delightful vegetal heart.

Food52 reports that in the early 1900s, Floridians “ate the hearts of the wild single-stemmed sabal palm”. Doesn’t that sound dark and romantic? In A Florida State of Mind: An Unnatural History of Our Weirdest State, James D. Wright refers to hearts of palm as “swamp cabbage,” “burglar’s thigh,” and “the lobster of vegetables”.

Now, in the olden days, in order to get hearts of palm, one must cut down the palm itself. This, rightly, caused deforestation concerns. Single-stemmed wild palms are no longer harvested, instead the majority of the hearts we eat today come from multi-stemmed farmed palms in Bolivia, Costa Rica and Ecuador.

 

 

This recipe, for a Back Pocket Canned Salad in Food52, tosses two hearts together – artichoke and palm – for a delightful salad with a minimalist white/beige/pale green colour palate.

One thing that palm hearts have become somewhat famous for, in vegan circles at least, is as a substitute for dense white shellfish – like crab and lobster. They aren’t called “the lobster of vegetables for nothing”. These lobster rolls, created by May I Have That Recipe, toss hearts with cayenne, Old Bay and paprika. Served up on Martin’s Potato Rolls and you’ve got a fun, and incredibly easy, alternative to lobster.

 

Lobster Rolls by Can I Have That Recipe?

I can’t believe it’s not lobster? Well, kinda sorta. Photo courtesy of Can I Have That Recipe?

 

This recipe for a faux crab salad shreds the hearts to mimic crab meat. You can then stuff it into a halved avocado and get that retro feel. Or create a vegan sushi and brown rice bowl. And this lime-tossed salad, from Food & Wine, is a bright and refreshing addition to the summer salad rotation.

To more fully understand this mysterious ingredient let’s go to Puna Farms in Hawaii to watch the harvest.



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