Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Hearts of palm have always been an expensive treat, and still are so today. If you live in Europe or North America, transportation is part of that cost, as palm trees only grow in tropical environments. However, the main reason for the expense of hearts of palm is that in order to harvest the bud of the palm tree ("hearts" of palm are in fact buds of palm) the entire tree must be sacrificed. The bud is the growing tip of the tree, and once it is removed, there is no way for the tree to continue to grow. Hearts of palm are harvested from young trees, but it still takes a number of years for a tree to reach maturity. There is no annual harvest when it comes to palm trees.
There are a number of species of palm from which hearts of palm can be harvested. Until the 1990s, the most common species used in commercial production was the içara palm (Euterpe edulis), which grows all along Brazil's southern coastline. However, over-harvesting and poaching of this plant resulted in its becoming endangered, and extinction of the species was a possibility.
(IUCN). As a long-time lover of hearts of palm, it's "heartening" to know that I can eat this delicacy without a guilty conscience.
Although the most common way to serve hearts of palm is simply and naturally, as mentioned above, there are other ways to showcase this product at the table. In Brazil, it's common to add chopped palmito to pizza combinations. One particularly successful combination is palmito and arugula on pizza, with the shredded arugula sprinkled on the pizza after it is removed from the oven. Another possibility is hearts of palm soup, the recipe for which can be found in the following post.