On an agricultural tour of Costa Rica years ago, my wife Mary Jane and I visited a hearts of palm plantation and were treated to samples cut that very day from the palm trees. They were truly delicious and I’ve devoured them avidly since that experience. In the old days, the hearts used to be cut from the terminal buds of coconut or royal palms, which killed the trees and severely impacted the coconut crops. But these days, peach palms are used instead and are grown on plantations. They have secondary buds that can be harvested, allowing the tree to regenerate more of them. The peach palm plantations are so profitable that coca growers in South America are being encouraged to grow them to replace the trees that grow the leaves that are processed into cocaine.
MexGrocer.com sells Roland brand hearts of palm that are packed in water and a little citric acid. Because of their citric acid content, hearts of palm should be rinsed in cold water before using. Most commonly they are chilled and served in salads and appetizer dishes.
The other night we had a guest for dinner and I served a salad with large tomato and red pepper slices and on top of red leaf lettuce topped with Roland’s hearts of palm and served it with Italian dressing. Mary Jane’s nephew had never tasted hearts of palm before, but he loved them. The salad was not only spectacular to look at, but the flavor was wonderful.
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