Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hearts Of Palm Salad

Heart of palm, also called palm heart, palmito, or swamp cabbage, is a vegetable harvested from the inner core and growing bud of certain palm trees. It is costly because harvesting kills the tree. It is eaten raw, usually in salads, and has a mild, slightly sweet nutty flavor and a pleasant texture. In appearance it is off-white and usually sold as round stalks about an inch in diameter and 4-5 inches long, in jars or cans with salt water.

Heart of palm, also called palm heart, palmito, burglar's thigh, chonta, palm cabbage or swamp cabbage, is a vegetable harvested from the inner core and growing bud of certain palm trees notably the coconut [Cocos nucifera], Palmito Juçara [Euterpe edulis], Açaí palm [Euterpe oleracea], sabal [Sabal spp.] and pejibaye [Bactris gasipaes palms].

Harvesting of many non-cultivated or wild single-stemmed palms results in palm tree death [e.g. Geonoma edulis]. However, other palm species are clonal or multi-stemmed plants [e.g. Prestoea acuminata, Euterpe oleracea] and moderate harvesting will not kill the entire clonal palm. Heart of palm may be eaten on its own, and often it is eaten in a salad.

An alternative to wild heart of palm are palm varieties which have undergone a process of adaptation to become a domesticated farm species. The main variety that has been domesticated is the botanical species Bactris gasipaes, known in Ecuador as chontaduro, in Costa Rica as palmito, and in English as the peach palm. This variety is the most widely used for canning.

Peach palms are self-suckering and produce multiple stems, up to 40 on one plant, so harvesting several stems from a plant is not so expensive because the plant can live on. Another advantage it has over other palms is that it has been selectively bred to eliminate the vicious thorns of its wild cousins. Since harvesting is still a labor intensive task, palm hearts are regarded as a delicacy.

As of 2008, Costa Rica is the primary source of fresh palm hearts in the US. Peach palm is also cultivated in Hawaii, and now has limited distribution on the mainland, primarily to the restaurant trade. Florida's wild Sabal palmetto or cabbage palm was once a source of hearts of palm but is now protected by conservation law.

Brazil was the highest producer of uncultivated hearts of palm, but in the 1990s its quality went down - mostly because of unsustainable poaching for stems [called colete, Portuguese for "vest"] of the main producing species, Euterpe edulis - 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. France is the largest importer of hearts of palm.

Hearts Of Palm Salad photo by Rebecca of WithLoveFromArgentina.typepad.com
From Foodista.com

Hearts Of Palm Salad

For The Vinaigrette:
1/2 lime or lemon juiced
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
For The Hearts Of Palm Salad:
1 can palm hearts - (14 to 15 oz) drained, and
sliced crosswise
2 ripe mangoes peeled, sliced thin
2 ripe avocados (or 1 large) peeled, stoned,
and thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber peeled, sliced thin
1/2 Scotch bonnet seeded, chopped fine
(or other hot chile pepper)
1/2 lime or lemon to be squeezed on
avocado to prevent discolouring

To make the dressing: Mix the first 4 ingredients and then drizzle olive oil in slowly while stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Assemble all the salad ingredients in a bowl and serve the dressing on the side.

Editor's Note: The photo illustration differs from the recipe in that the photo includes hard boiled egg, lettuce, tomato and beets and does not have avocado or peppers. my tweak of the recipe would be to eliminate the hard boiled egg and have mixed greens of frisee and radicchio and a vidalia onion.

Text Credit: Heart Of Palm || Heart Of Palm || foodista.com
Photo Credit: FromArgentinaWithLove.typepad.com

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