Most of the production of hearts of palm is done in South America and for the most part the product is available in tins or jars but rarely fresh. But there is good news for heart of palm lovers. Hawaiian farmers are producing fresh heart of palm and making it available to professional and home chefs.
For the record, the correct name is singular "heart of palm" even though you'll see it commonly referred to as "hearts of palm".
Heart of palm as has always been rather expensive. Much of the cost is due to the fact that when the product is harvested the trees are destroyed. Replanting of trees is costly and time consuming.
Thanks to Hawaii's Wailea Agricultural Group we are now seeing fresh heart of palm in restaurants, some specialty stores and even a couple of online retailers.
Hawaiian production has taken a different approach. Rather than constant crop destruction Hawaiian growers only harvest the new shoots of the palm that come up from the base of the plant. This method does not destroy the tree which increases the production cycle and helps to keep the costs down.
Most commonly the fresh heart of palm is used in salads and appetizers (see recipe suggestions). This low calorie food (about 50 calories for 3/4 cup of slices) also offers a gram of fiber per serving and a whopping 338mg of potassium (about the same as 1 banana).
Raw - Eat fresh heart of palm as a snack and of course sliced or chopped and added to salads or other fresh appetizers. In the salad shown below the chef combined hearty slices as well as tiny cubes for an attractive (and tasty) presentation.
Cooked - Heart of palm can be steamed, braised, sautéed, boiled or stir-fried or baked.
Fresh heart of palm should be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated immediately upon receiving. With proper storage your product can be stored for about 2 weeks.
Different cuts from the plant dictate the best preparation method. Here are some suggestions from Wailea Agricultural Group:
Heart - Slice thin and use raw in salads or simple appetizers.
Stem - Steam the stem in its outer sheath. Cooking time will vary, depending on the size of the stem. The larger Heart of Palm base section is also delicious when steamed until tender.
Baked Heart of Palm
from Chef Kimberley Foote from Ship To Shore Serves: 6