You've probably seen this strange white vegetable in jars next to the jarred artichoke hearts in your grocery store and wondered, "is this actually the heart of a palm tree?" The answer is both yes and no.
Heart of palm is a vegetable harvested from the inner core or growing bud of certain palm trees, the most common being coconut, juçara, açaí palm, palmetto, and peach palm. Once the whole tree or the bud is cut, the bark of the palm is peeled off to reveal the tender white heart of palm inside.
Fresh heart of palm can be eaten raw, immediately upon harvesting. It is crunchy with a very mildly sweet flavor, similar to jicama without the chalkiness. It is incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. Many of us have never had the pleasure of trying a fresh heart of palm due to the popularity and durability of canning this tasty vegetable.
You're likely not going to eat all of your heart of palm upon its arrival to your home. When you receive your fresh heart of palm, refrigerate it at 33-40° F (0.5-8° C). The colder the temperature, the longer it will stay fresh, but do not let it freeze. Due to its high water content, the texture will change if frozen.
Wrap unused portions tightly in plastic and refrigerate for up to two weeks. The stem keeps best in its protective, woody outer sheath.
The edible portions of the fresh Hawaiian Heart of Palm are the young leaves at the stem’s top, the heart inside the bottom of the stem, and all of the large base portion. All are delicious raw, lightly cooked, and/or marinated.
Before using the stem part, however, you will need to remove the outer sheath by slicing it lengthwise—never towards yourself— with a sharp knife. The center heart section will pop out. Toss the sheath in your green waste or compost.
The whole base section is edible. You can chop, cube or slice depending on what's best for your recipe.
You're ready to get to eating, keep reading to learn the best ways to eat heart of palm.