What Does Hearts Of Palm Taste Like?

With their delicate appearance and exotic name, hearts of palm add intrigue to recipes. But what exactly does this unusual vegetable taste like, and how is it used in cuisine?

Hearts of palm have a mild, sweet flavor with a firm, meaty texture similar to artichoke hearts. Their crunchy qualities make them versatile to use in salads, appetizers, and even vegan dishes imitating seafood.

This article explores everything you need to know about what does hearts of palm taste like and how to enjoy them. We’ll cover their flavor, texture, origin, nutrition, and best uses in cooking.

Overview of Hearts of Palm

Hearts of palm are harvested from the inner core of certain palm trees:

  • The edible part is the tree’s apical meristem – the tender growing bud located in new growth fronds.
  • Various palm species are used including peach palm, palmito juçara, and acai palms.
  • Hearts of palm originated as a food source in Central and South America. They remain popular in Brazilian, Peruvian, and Caribbean cuisine.
  • The vegetable offers a crunchy, mildly sweet flavor reminiscent of artichokes, asparagus, or bamboo shoots.
  • They grow in tropical and subtropical climates including Hawaii, Florida, and parts of Asia.

So hearts of palm offer a unique taste of the tropics, exported from palm tree gardens across Central and South America. But what exactly does this exotic vegetable taste like?

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Describing the Taste and Texture

When cooked, hearts of palm offer a refreshing taste sensation with great textural contrast:

  • Crunchy – Hearts of palm have a satisfying crisp, juicy crunch when raw or just blanched or grilled.
  • Sweet – The flavor is mildly sweet, picking up hints of whatever seasoning or sauce they are paired with. Definitely not tart or starchy.
  • Vegetal – Slight grassy, herbaceous notes come through like asparagus, celery, or cabbage.
  • Mild – The flavor is subtle rather than pronounced. Delicate and easily absorbs other ingredients
  • Firm but tender – They maintain a firm al dente bite even when cooked but aren’t tough or chewy.

Hearts of palm offer a refreshing crunch and sweetness along with light vegetal flavors that pair well with all types of seasonings.

Flavor and Texture Differences Between Fresh vs Canned

Hearts of palm are enjoyed both fresh and canned:

  • Fresh – Extremely crunchy with pops of sweetness and brightness. More nuanced flavor.
  • Canned – Softer crunch but still with firmness. Milder tasting and needs more seasoning.
  • Appearance – Fresh looks translucent white. Canned is opaque and pale yellow.
  • Shelf life – Fresh only lasts about a week. Canned lasts 1-2 years but needs rinsing before eating.
  • Sustainability – Canned is harvested from sustainable palm plantations. Fresh hearts kill the entire tree.

For maximum crunch and flavor fresh is ideal, but well-rinsed canned hearts provide an acceptable substitute for recipes given sustainability concerns around fresh.

Flavor Compatibility – What Do Hearts of Palm Pair With?

Hearts of palm’s flavors combine tastily with:

  • Citrus – Lime, lemon, yuzu, grapefruit
  • Herbs – Cilantro, basil, mint
  • Tomatoes – Fresh, sun-dried, cherry tomato
  • Onion – Red, yellow, green, leek
  • Peppers – Jalapeño, habanero, red bell
  • Tropical fruits – Pineapple, mango, papaya
  • Seafood – Shrimp, crab, crayfish
  • Salad greens – Lettuce, arugula, watercress
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Due to their mild sweetness, hearts of palm welcome bright, fresh ingredients as well as spicy accents like peppers and hot sauce. Their crunchy juiciness also holds up well in cooked applications.

How to Eat and Cook With Hearts of Palm

Hearts of palm shine in these preparations:

  • Salad topping – Thinly slice and add to greens, grains, veggie salads
  • Ceviche – Toss with citrus, tomato, onion as a “seafood” substitute
  • Salsa – Combine with mango, jalapeño, red onion, cilantro
  • Stir fry – Quickly sauté with snap peas, bell pepper, cashews
  • Grill – Sear over high heat to add great charred flavor
  • Soup garnish – Float slices in brothy soups
  • Vegetable side – Roast tossed in oil, garlic, salt and pepper
  • Raw snack – Slice and dip in hummus or guacamole

Both the fresh and canned versions can be used in anything from appetizers to mains. Hearts hold up well to a quick high-heat sear or grill for a contrasting crunchy element.

Popular Dishes Featuring Hearts of Palm

Some favorite recipes that highlight hearts of palm include:

  • Brazilian heart of palm salad – combined with tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime juice.
  • Caribe salad – Mixed with avocado, mangos, peppers for tropical flavor.
  • Vegan crab cakes – Shredded hearts mimic crab texture combined with Old Bay seasoning.
  • Heart of palm ceviche – “Cooked” in lime, tossed with veggies as a fish-free ceviche.
  • Coconut curry with hearts of palm – Added to curry along with veggies like green beans and carrots.
  • Stuffed peppers – Filled with a mix of black beans, rice, corn, and diced hearts of palm.
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The mild sweetness acts as a blank canvas for global flavors from tropical salsas to Indian curries to Mediterranean salads.

Heart of Palm Nutrition Facts

Hearts of palm offer an impressive nutrition profile:

  • Rich in potassium. One cup contains over 600mg potassium.
  • Excellent source of magnesium, copper, iron and manganese.
  • Contains B-vitamins including folate, niacin, riboflavin.
  • High in fiber with 9g per cup. Almost no fat or cholesterol.
  • Provides plant-based protein – over 3g per cup.

This exotic vegetable packs a nutritious punch along with its great crunchy texture. It makes a smart, healthier addition to salads and sides.

Availability and Storage

Hearts of palm can be found fresh or canned:

  • Canned hearts of palm are widely available at grocery stores, often in jars near olives.
  • Fresh hearts of palm have a short shelf life of 5-7 days and must be sliced and eaten promptly.
  • Unopened canned hearts keep 1-2 years. Refrigerate opened cans and use within a week.
  • Frozen hearts of palm lose texture, so best to buy only what you plan to use fresh within days.

While fresh is ideal, well-rinsed canned hearts provide longer lasting convenience for recipes. Store opened cans in the refrigerator.

Key Takeaways – What Does Hearts Of Palm Taste Like

  • Hearts of palm offer a mildly sweet, crunchy texture with vegetal flavors.
  • Fresh hearts are juicier while canned versions are more affordable but need rinsing.
  • Hearts of palm pair well with citrus, herbs, peppers, seafood, and tropical fruits.
  • They can be eaten raw, grilled, sautéed, or added to salads, salsas, and curries.
  • Nutritionally, hearts of palm are low calorie, high fiber, and packed with vitamins and minerals.
  • Canned hearts have better accessibility year-round compared to perishable fresh hearts.

With their crisp, refreshing crunch and versatility, hearts of palm provide a unique addition to salads, appetizers, and even vegan dishes.