Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hearts of Palm - Caviar for Vegans

The title might be a slight exaggeration, but when I came across Hearts of Palm a few years ago, it was love at first bite. The thing that makes Hearts of Palm a delicacy is the fact that it is harvested from the sprout of a new palm tree. Harvesting this sprout means the end of the palm tree. Fortunately, a variety (peach palm) has been cultivated that grows multiple sprouts and therefore doesn't die in the harvesting.
The edible portion is the inner core of the sprout. The result is a long white tube of flesh. The texture kind of reminds me of sea scallops (something I loved before my Vegan days). The taste is simple and refreshing and makes a great addition to salads or can be eaten on its own as a snack.
Hearts of Palm is available quite readily in grocery stores throughout North America. I would have to assume that the same can be said for Europe as France is the biggest importer of the product. It can be a bit pricey, a can in Canada goes for $4-$5 - and it's not a large can. This is understandable considering the harvesting process. Ecuador is now the largest exporter.
Recently, while in Panama, most meals at the resort buffet included ample amount of Hearts of Palm. People thought I was a freak as I filled up whole plates with the product. They became intrigued when I told them I was eating $20-$30 of the product, if I was back in Canada.
This is no filler vegetable, either. Hearts of Palm is packed full of goodness. It's a decent source of protein and calcium and a great source of fiber, vitamin C, iron, folate, magnesium, zinc and copper. One cup of Hearts of Palm will give you your RDA of manganese.
The best way to try Hearts of Palm for the first time is to add it to a mixed salad. Take the strips of flesh from the can and cut them into 1 cm chunks (1/4 inch). Simply mix them into the salad and enjoy. Be sure to go tropical and add artichoke and avocado as well.

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