Heart of palm, also called palm heart, Palmito, Chonta, Palmetto or Swamp cabbage, is a vegetable harvested from the inner core and growing bud of certain palm trees, like Palmito Juçara (Euterpe edulis), or Pejibaye (Bactris gasipaes) palms among others). Heart of Palm is native to Southern Mexico, Central America and Northern parts of South America. Native Floridians at one time called it “swamp cabbage” and regarded it as being poor people’s food. Indeed this palm achieved favor over the years due to its fine flavor accounts; its name change from “swamp cabbage” to “millionaire’s salad”. Aint that and ironic though? However, extracting the heart it is costly because it instantly kills the species, for the reason that the terminal bud is the only point from which the palm can grow and without this bud the palm will not be able to replace old leaves and will eventually die.
This tender and slightly sweet delicacy treasured by the Mayans for centuries is the class of the field of edible jungle plants. Along with other byproducts of the palm, Palmito oil is been used as a lubricant, for cooking, soap making and lamp oil and is been used by cultures in Mesoamerica since the pre- Columbian era in particular by indigenous Maya.
In Latin American cuisine, hearts of palm are often marinated or tossed with dressing before being added to a salad or dish. They can also be lightly sautéed and tossed with pasta or deep-fried. Some cooks use hearts of palm like artichoke hearts, adding them to salads, pasta and other dishes. Since the flavor is remarkably similar to that of an artichoke. Mayan people even used to make palm wine from the heart left on the base of the tree. Canned hearts of palm are packed in water, and can be found in gourmet markets and many large supermarkets. Once opened, they should be transferred to a nonmetal container with an airtight cover. They can be refrigerated in their own liquid for up to a week. The following recipes will go down in the annals of fine Latin dining.
12 ready-made tart shells
2 lb. heart of a palm
1 lb. Provolone cheese
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 green scallion onions, lightly chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped (not oil-packed)
15 pitted kalamata olives, thinly diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Salsa Golf (optional)
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper and cook stirring, until brown and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, Heart of the palm, olives and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside and let it rest to cool off. Fill the pastry cases with the sautéed ingredients. Preheat the oven to 300° and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Add 1-2 Tb. of mixture onto each tartlet and bake the tartlets until the crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then gently turn the tartlets out of the pans. Decorate with Provolone cheese pieces, and if you like sprinkle with Salsa Golf.
2 lbs. of heart of palm diced into large pieces
2 tablespoons of oil
1 large green bell pepper cut into small cubes
4 plum tomatoes cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 large onion sliced finely
1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon of mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon of vinegar
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a shallow pan. Sautee the onions, add the pepper, tomatoes, garlic and vinegar, add water when necessary. Add the heart of palm and the black pepper. Let simmer for 4 minutes reducing liquid to obtain a thin sauce. Adjust salt to taste.