Hearts of Palm — Iron Chef America Ingredients 101

by in Shows, August 6th, 2012

iron chef america battle tropical
In this week’s Kitchen Stadium battle, the Chairman provided not one but a whole cornucopia of ingredients. He challenged the Iron Chef and his challenger to create an inspired tropical meal.

Some of the ingredients on the altar, such as coconuts, pineapples, mangos and green papaya are reasonably well known to regular viewers of Food Network. So, with your permission, I am going to put those to one side and concentrate on one ingredient with which people might not be quite so familiar: hearts of palm.

What are hearts of palm?

Hearts of palm are a crunchy and slightly sweet vegetable similar in taste to an artichoke heart. They are the bud or inner core taken from a range of palm trees including coconut, acai, jucara and pejibayes. They are also known by a number of other names including palmitos and palm hearts. In Florida, they were once known as swamp cabbage and are harvested from the Sabal or “cabbage” palmetto tree, which is the official tree of the Sunshine State.

To harvest hearts of palm, a young tree must be felled and the bark (along with the fibrous outer layers) peeled away to reveal the inner softer core. Unfortunately, this process also means that the tree from which the hearts come is killed; the popularity of the vegetable in South America has, in the past, contributed to the rapid destruction of rain forests. In more recent years, however, hearts of palm have begun to be farmed and trees have been bred that develop more than a single stem allowing for a higher yield to be harvested from each tree.

marc forgioneOnce the core is removed from the tree, the tubular white heart is cut into smaller sections, each a few inches long, ready to be sold fresh or, as is more often the case, canned. They are also often packed in salt and sometimes in citric acid to preserve them as they travel.

Hearts of palm are a versatile vegetable to have on hand in the kitchen and have reasonably high nutritional values. They are rich in potassium and in vitamin B9 and are very low in calories, with 100 grams of the vegetable yielding only 115 calories, most of which come from carbohydrates. They contain almost no cholesterol and are an excellent source of dietary fiber.

Where do hearts of palm come from?

The largest producer of hearts of palm is Brazil and most still come from the jucara palm tree, although increasingly they are being harvested from other palm trees as efforts are made to protect the forests.

Brazil is still responsible for nearly 50 percent of the volume of hearts of palm that are imported into the United States. Other countries such as Ecuador, Costa Rica and Venezuela also produce significant amounts from other types of tree including the acai palm, which is also famous as the source of that fashionable superfood, the acai berry.

Florida and Hawaii also produce hearts of palm.

How do I cook with hearts of palm?

Hearts of palm have many uses in the kitchen and can be used both as a vegetable in their own right or to supplement in other dishes.

If you are a fan of soups, try simmering hearts of palm gently in chicken or vegetable stock with a little onion, garlic and potato. Blend the vegetables together to make the soup thicker and add a little cream to make it richer. A dusting of fresh nutmeg right at the end will add an earthy note to the final dish.

Thinly sliced hearts of palm can make an excellent topping for pizza and are great in salads, either with other vegetables, such as cucumber and tomatoes, or on their own with just a light dressing of a cilantro and balsamic vinaigrette.

The French import and consume more hearts of palm than any other nation, and one of the most memorable dishes I have encountered was of poached hearts of palm served in a brown butter and lemon sauce topped with a little chervil.

In Florida, hearts of palm are used to make a Millionaire’s Salad along with artichoke hearts and pimentos. The name originally reflected the cost of cutting down a sizeable tree just to get its juicy inner contents.

Finally, if you are looking for an interesting appetizer, try coating slices of hearts of palm with panko bread crumbs and then deep-frying them until golden brown. Top them off with your favorite tomato sauce recipe or even with a sharp tartar sauce made with mayonnaise, capers and diced pickles.

Where can I buy hearts of palm?

The majority of the hearts of palm you will find in your neighborhood supermarket will be packed in jars or cans and can be of varying quality.

Look for brands that are packed in jars using only water. If you can only find the canned variety, be sure to rinse the contents well as quite a lot of salt may have been used in the preserving process.

Best of all, there are now a number of excellent online sites that supply fresh hearts of palm. Give them a try as once you have tried them in their natural state, there is no turning back.

Similar Posts

The All-Star Academy Mentors Talk Competitive Strategy — and Some Serious Smack

The mentors on All-star Academy share the strategies they'll be using in order to win the competition with their teams of home cooks....

Comments (5)

  1. Leah says:

    I love hearts of palm and Mark Forgione! They are a nice addition to any salad.very refreshing. I would love to see ICA have a vegan battle. My friend is a strict vegan and I am sick of making pasta, veggie burgers or sauteed veggies

  2. I needed to put you this tiny note to help thank you again for your lovely

  3. I registered and paid today was I still on time?

  4. I remember a tiny story related to fishing when I was a little girl. It was in rainy season and it rained for almost everyday. I was visiting my relatives who lived quite far from the city, a suburb area, actually. In front of the house, there was a strange dry long canal and a wooden small bridge. I have always wondered what it was for and then, after a few days of constant raining that I realized “ahhh… now it is a actually a water-filled canal!” It was for fishing. It was such an amazing experience for me to go fishing in such a small stream of water! I mean, where did the fish come from? Was the canal connected to any river? Even there were many questions in my head, I did not ask. I just went with the flow, sit on the wooden bridge, holding the old-fashioned fishing equipment which was an old long piece of bamboo stick, hooked with a worm as a bait. There were 5of us, my brother and I, cousins and my daddy. He taught us how to do the fishing. It was quite boring at first but suddenly, my cousin screamed out loud with joy and said “I got one! I got a fish!”. My eyes were wide opened to see a fish hooked up. I was not happy,though. It seems like I was hurting the fish and the fish does not deserve this. So, I asked my dad if we could let it go back to the water and he agreed. Hence, we just sit there playing around, fishing and letting the fish back into where it was. It was a great day,though. I am also finding a place to start this joyful activity,too and waiting for the answers from other people just like Mister ambassador. Thank you for reading my childhood story. It is kind of childish but it was so much fun and I just wanted to share. Thanks again,

  5. We have truly skated off the edge into Wonderland if the Big 12 asks permission to stage a championship game it really has no intention of playing. Believing that Bowlsby and the conference are instead rational, I choose to interpret this overture as preparation for expansion, sooner rather than later, since there is no point whatsoever in playing a championship game at the conclusion of a round-robin schedule. There is no way in H-E-double hockey sticks that the playoff committee can dictate terms to the Big 12, i.e., that it must have a championship game or that it must have a certain number of teams (it only needs enough to ensure the quality of its champion). Without the Big 12, a playoff has no legitimacy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>