Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Palms Have Hearts, Too

Once upon a time, there was a wonderful restaurant called the Brazilian Pavilion, an airy, aromatic joint on the West Side that emerged after the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens. While Le Discophage in Paris was myMEGusta’s introduction to the glorious cuisine of Brazil, it was at the Brazilian Pavilion that she enjoyed this cuisine stateside for many, many years.

Salad of Hearts of Palm

Salad of Hearts of Palm

One of my favorite dishes there was a hearts of palm salad.

I found it curious, how the inside of a tree could produce this tender treat. Of course, this was before realizing that palm “trees” are not trees in the usual sense, in that they don’t form annual rings. As the tree matures, the base becomes very woody, but not exactly like normal wood. You don’t often find palm furniture, although this is an emerging “sustainable” industry in the tropics.

Cross Section

Cross Section

The “hearts” are actually the interior of the tender young shoots, and you can see how each emerging frond is a pointy-ended crescent shape or uneven ringlet.

But don’t take a machete to that palm tree in the living room too soon.

Hearts of palm that are consumed as food are farmed from the types of palm trees which send up multiple shoots, so that the whole plant is not sacrificed to get to the salad ingredient. And they are robust enough to yield a nice portion of the edible vegetable. The Peach Palm is one of these varieties whose new growth can be harvested while sustaining the base plant.

Processing Hearts of Palm

Processing Hearts of Palm

In Hawaii, the Big Island’s Wailea Valley is the United States’ largest producer of hearts of palm, and the leading producer for fine restaurants around the country.

Hearts of palm can be found fresh at some grocery stores, not to mention farmers markets if you happen to live in Hawaii.

Hearts of Palm

Hearts of Palm

Failing that, hearts of palm are also available canned, which actually are not bad, and make a delightful addition to a salad year ‘round. Just like in Brazil!

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2 thoughts on “Palms Have Hearts, Too

  1. Bea Crumbine on said:

    AhI always wondered if an entire tree was sacrificed! Thank you!

    xo Bea

  2. Interesting, always something new to learn. I was under the impression that the whole tree is scarified when the shoots are harvested. Good to know that eating
    palm hearts hurt the tree, but does not kill it.
    Keep writing! Arno

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