What are hearts of palm anyway? I never see anything in cooking magazines or my cookbooks about them. Well, maybe I just haven't noticed. My curiosity got the best of me and I finally bought a can the other day. This salad seemed the simplest way to taste and present them to my family. But writing about them was not so simple.
While writing this post I researched hearts of palm and got upset when I read that harvesting them is bad for the environment. When harvested, the palm tree dies (i.e., unsustainable) and demand has led to poaching and deforestation of the rainforest in South America. (Hmmm, is this why I never see recipes with them?) After further research, I learned they are now mostly harvested from agricultural farms and usually from the peach palm (which doesn't die because it has multiple shoots to harvest from) or other domesticated species. However, the World Rainforest Movement claims (April 2000) the growing cultivation of Palmetto palms to be a threat to Equador's biodiversity. Hawaii is now home to a large sustainable farm using the peach palm.
I have to admit that unless I am positive the hearts of palm I'm buying are sustainable, I'll probably avoid them. I could drive myself crazy wondering where my food comes from, but I think it's important to be aware. I bought my hearts of palm from Whole Foods and I hope they are buying from companies who are buying from sustainable farms.
Hearts of palm in Florida were originally called swamp cabbage because it was a staple of the poor then changed to millionaires' salad when it became a popular delicacy among chefs. Harvesting is now restricted, http://www.soupsong.com/fheartso.html.
Hearts of Palm and Black Olive Salad
1 can hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs white wine vinegar
1 tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 can black olives, or other favorite olive
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 ts dried Italian spices
Romaine lettuce, rinsed and trimmed
Pepper to taste
The key is to not over season their delicate flavor.
Slice hearts of palm into discs, marinate with extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, parsley, I omitted salt because they were already salty, add pepper to taste and refrigerate at least 1 hour, can marinate overnight (not slicing too thin and being gentle so as to not dislodge or mush the delicate meat in the middle):
Roughly chop black olives (or, if you like, substitute green olives). I used canned black olives instead of calamata or other olive because I wanted to keep sodium levels low. Santa Barbara Olives have lower sodium than most. Drizzle with oil olive, about one tablespoon, season with Italian spices, about 1 teaspoon. Refrigerate also (separate from hearts of palm).
When the rest of your meal is ready, put all ingredients together, drizzle remaining dressing over lettuce and enjoy with your family.
Nutritional information: very good source of fiber, vitamin C, folate, calcium and other minerals, and a good source of protein, riboflavin and potassium.
My inspiration for this salad came from, http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/hearts-of-palm-salad/Detail.aspx