My new favorite food…heart of palm! Before coming to Brazil I never heard of this little vegetable. Now it has become a favorite of mine when I go to the kilo restaurant. I have even bought a jar of it to have at home.
Here is what I learned about this interesting vegetable…
Heart of palm, palm heart or palmito as it is called is a vegetable harvested from the inner core and growing bud of certain palm trees. It is a slender white vegetable and hearts of palm are encased in a tough cylindrical, ivory husk. Inside is a velvety, tender flesh that is delicately flavored. Tasting somewhat like an artichoke, it has the appearance similar to that of white asparagus. About four inches in length, individual hearts may be as thin as a pencil or measure nearly one to one-and-one-half inches in diameter. Harvesting of many non-cultivated or wild single-stemmed palms results in palm tree death. Brazil was the highest producer of uncultivated hearts of palm until the 1990’s but its quality went down – mostly because of unsustainable poaching for stems of the main producing species, which is now considered as threatened with extinction in the wild. This left the market open for Ecuador to export its cultivated hearts of palm. Ecuador is now one of the main producers of hearts of palm and France is the largest importer of hearts of palm.
Heart of palm may be eaten on its own, and often it is eaten in a salad and isvery low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Protein, Riboflavin and Potassium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Copper and Manganese and very low in calories. The bad thing is that it is high in Sodium!
Hearts of palm is packaged fresh, or jarred in water, and is served raw or cooked. It’s great in salads, rice,pastas and fresh salsas. You can top pizza with thin slices or stuff or fill salgados and pastels with it. It is also really great in a casserole.
I have been eating palm heart here whatever chance I get, hopefully we have it in Canada!