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Fresh heart of palm is crunchy and delicious as part of a salad

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / 2003
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You see it on restaurant menus and at farmers’ markets; people talk about it. What exactly is a heart of palm?

As its name suggests, it’s the edible heart (or inner core) of a palm tree, specifically a peach palm. To harvest a heart of palm, a whole tree (about 8 to 10 feet high) is cut down, and its outer bark is stripped off until the heart is exposed. The long (4 to 5 foot) layered heart is mild-flavored and crisp at the core and top; the thicker bottom portion of the stalk is crunchier and firmer.

Most of the world is familiar with hearts of palm as a canned item, packed in briny water that overpowers its delicate fresh flavor. Fortunately in Hawaii, we can get it fresh, and it’s so different in flavor and texture from its canned cousin.

Hearts of palm can be eaten raw or cooked; the bottom portion is excellent sauteed with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Or cut this portion into julienne strips for salads or sauteed dishes. The softer inner tops are simply delicious as is, sliced for a salad or on a crudite tray.

And here’s a bonus: Hearts of palm are sustainable. Each tree that’s cut down throws off a keiki that grows into another tree for harvest!

Hearts of palm are grown mostly on Hawaii Island.

Hawaii food writer Joan Namkoong offers a weekly tidbit on fresh seasonal products, many of them locally grown. Look for "Fresh Tips" every Wednesday.

 

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