Heart of palm
, also called palm heart
, burglar's thigh
, palm cabbage
or swamp cabbage
, is a vegetable
The noun vegetable usually means an edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed. This typically means the leaf, stem, or root of a plant....
harvested from the inner core and growing bud
In botany, a bud is an undeveloped or embryonic shoot and normally occurs in the axil of a leaf or at the tip of the stem. Once formed, a bud may remain for some time in a dormant condition, or it may form a shoot immediately. Buds may be specialized to develop flowers or short shoots, or may have...
of certain palm trees (notably the coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...
), Palmito Juçara (Euterpe edulis
Euterpe edulis, commonly known as jucara, Juçara, Açaí-do-sul or Palmiteiro, is palm species in the genus Euterpe. It is now predominantly used for hearts of palm. It is closely related to the açaí palm , a species cultivated for its fruit and superior hearts of palm. The larvae of Caligo...
), Açaí palm
The açaí palm is a species of palm tree in the genus Euterpe cultivated for their fruit and superior hearts of palm. Its name comes from the Portuguese adaptation of the Tupian word ïwasa'i, '[fruit that] cries or expels water'. Global demand for the fruit has expanded rapidly in recent years,...
Sabal is a genus of New World palms, many of the species being known as palmetto. They are fan palms , with the leaves with a bare petiole terminating in a rounded fan of numerous leaflets; in some of the species, the leaflets are joined for up to half of their length...
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
Salad is any of a wide variety of dishes, including vegetable salads; salads of pasta, legumes, eggs, or grains; mixed salads incorporating meat, poultry, or seafood; and fruit salads. They may include a mixture of cold and hot, often including raw vegetables or fruits.Green salads include leaf...
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
Bactris gasipaes is a species of palm native to the tropical forests of South and Central America.There are numerous common names for this plant in several languages and many countries...
, 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
A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant. The stem is normally divided into nodes and internodes, the nodes hold buds which grow into one or more leaves, inflorescence , conifer cones, roots, other stems etc. The internodes distance one node from another...
, 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
Costa Rica , officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east....
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
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...
's wild Sabal palmetto
or cabbage palm was once a source of hearts of palm but is now protected by conservation law.
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...
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
Ecuador , officially the Republic of Ecuador is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border...
to export its cultivated hearts of palm. Ecuador is now one of the main producers of hearts of palm. France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...
is the largest importer of hearts of palm.
When harvesting the cultivated young palm, the tree is cut down and the bark is removed leaving layers of white fibers around the center core. During processing the fibers are removed leaving the center core or heart of palm. The center core is attached to a slightly more fibrous cylindrical base with a larger diameter. The entire cylindrical center core and the attached base are edible. The center core is considered more of a delicacy because of its lower fiber content.