What Is Heart of Palm and Is It a Real Vegetable?

When it comes to vegetables, you’ve got your standbys like peas, carrots, and corn…they’re all hits. But, sometimes you want to enjoy an artist’s deep cuts—the demos and B-sides that you don’t hear on the radio. In the produce world, hearts of palm are those B-sides. But you know what else was a B-side? Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” David Bowie’s “Suffragette City.” The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus.” So even if hearts of palm isn’t a radio, er, dinner staple for you right now, it might be soon. So let’s get to it. 

What are hearts of palm?

Heart of palm is a vegetable harvested from the inner core and growing bud of certain palm trees, most notably the coconut, juçara, açaí palm, palmetto, and peach palm. Typically, the heart of palm is cut into cylinders or sliced into rings and canned or jarred in either water or brine. It’s a bountiful source of several minerals, including potassium, copper, phosphorus, and zinc. Not only that, but the potassium within it also serves as an electrolyte and helps regulate blood pressure. Heart of palm is commonly referred to as a superfood, and after hearing all that, I think it’s simple to see why! 

What does heart of palm taste like?

Hearts of palm have a very mild, vaguely nutty flavor, similar to white asparagus or artichoke hearts. Their texture is solid and crunchy, but still delicate and easy to bite through. It’s a popular choice for salads, but they can also be braised, fried, or boiled. It’s the only vital organ of the palm we have access to so far, but we’ll let you know if we ever get to taste a “pancreas of palm.”

Where do hearts of palm come from?

Since hearts of palm are found in palm trees, they literally come from the palm plant. These plants grow in Florida, as well as Central and South America. Speaking as a current Californian, I can also see these trees whenever I leave the house. Although, I’ll readily admit I’ve never stopped and robbed one of its heart. Call me a softie if you must, but I say, “Who am I to cut an innocent palm down in their prime?”

Is heart of palm a vegetable?

Yes indeed, the heart of palm is a variety of non-starchy white vegetable. But, like most vegetables, they can be dressed up in a great big salad with enough dressing and bacon bits to get even the pickiest child to eat them—maybe even like them! 

Heart of palm may not be on the tip of everyone’s tongue or the top of everyone’s grocery list, but it deserves its place right alongside the more popular vegetables. Who knows, perhaps in a few years it could be the vegetable of choice for eighth grade graduations across the country, just like its fellow B-side Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).”

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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