We recently poured down cement to make a long driveway at our bayhouse, since the grass seems to grow like it’s on steroids and I’m always terrified of the thought of stepping on a snake in the grass (no pun intended). Now that the big driveway has cut down significantly on lawnmowing time and keeps everything within clear eyesight, the only obstacle is maneuvering the winding path in the dark. One particular palm tree in the yard keeps getting rear-ended by unsuspecting cars, so we had to make the difficult decision to chop it down. Sorry, tree-huggers.
If you’ve ever eaten at a Brazilian steakhouse, then you’ve probably seen their vast salad bar filled to the brim with colorful fresh produce. One staple that you’ve probably tried is heart of palm– that tubular white, delightfully crunchy vegetable that resembles the taste of artichoke hearts. Heart of palm is the center part of the trunk of certain varieties of palm tree. The outside of a mature palm tree is huge compared to the actual edible inner core, and it takes around 4 to 6 years for a palm tree to mature, so harvesting your own heart of palm may not be the most environmentally sustainable method to obtain this culinary treasure. Thank goodness there are commercially operated palm tree farms where hearts of palm are harvested, brined, and packed in jars for grocery store shelves. I have seen them sold in bulk before in Costco. Not only is heart of palm delicious, it is quite healthy! Heart of palm is low in calories (20 calories per 1/2 cup), low in fat, high in fiber, promotes heart health, improves blood sugar control, provides a natural source of iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, among other micronutrients. And of course, when we think of Brazilians, we think of those beautiful bronzed bikini bodies! Heart of palm supports weight loss by providing non-starchy high fiber and water content, so you can feel full faster without consuming many calories.
So back to the tree my husband chopped down. He presented me with the inner part of the palm tree trunk, and it was still this big log-looking thing. To get to the heart, I had to continue to peel back the thick hard layers until I reached the tender white core. A whole tree and hours of effort later, it came to this much awaited moment.
To keep the white heart of palm from turning brown, I quickly blanched it in a pot of salted boiling water for about 15 seconds. I then removed it to a colander and rinsed the heart of palm under cold water and set aside. Now to make a refreshing salad! I realize not everyone will have the opportunity to chop down a palm tree on a whim, nor will fresh palm tree hearts be readily available. Therefore, store-bought canned or jarred hearts of palm are perfectly acceptable for the following recipe. I added avocados for creaminess and hothouse cucumbers for crunch. Feel free to add or substitute any of your favorite veggies. You can also choose your favorite dressing. I opted to go simple and use a cilantro lime vinaigrette to highlight the refreshing taste of the heart of palm.
Brazilian-Inspired Heart of Palm Salad
Ingredients: (serves 2-4)
- 3 cups sliced heart of palm (canned, jarred, or fresh <if using fresh, be sure to blanch in boiling water for a few seconds>)
- 1 large red tomato, diced
- 2 spring onions, thinly sliced (less if you don’t like onions)
- 1/2 of a small red or white onion, thinly sliced (I used sweet white onion)
- 1/2 to 1 whole hothouse cucumber or other seedless variety, diced
- 1 ripe but firm avocado, cut into cubes
- Cilantro-lime Vinaigrette:
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
- freshly ground black pepper
1. Place all salad ingredients in a large bowl and combine gently with salad tongs.
2. Add all vinaigrette ingredients to a bowl and stir until well-mixed.
3. Pour vinaigrette dressing onto salad and serve chilled.
Hope you try out and enjoy this healthy and delicious salad! Please share with me how you like to prepare heart of palm.