Sunday, 20 January 2008

rice w palm hearts

I recently found a can of palm hearts in the grocery store across the street from my apartment. These delicious shoots are ridiculously expensive and, despite the fact that they’re canned, have the most exquisite, completely moreish flavour.

This vegetarian side dish tasted wonderfully rich and the palm hearts brought on a sweet, saltiness reminiscent of scallops. In fact I was shocked just how much this dish tasted of scallop mornay.

It was very good.

I found a recipe on a Costa Rican recipe website but soon discovered that many of the instructions did not make sense and that the measurements were totally incorrect.

Below is my own recipe based vaguely on the original.

After making the dish I thought it was funny to note that I chose a Costa Rican recipe since Costa Rica seems to be one of the largest global producers of palm hearts (I think Brazil is the largest).

Arroz con Palmitos (Rice w Palm Hearts)
Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 6 as side dish.

400g can palm hearts, cut in small pieces
1½ cups cooked white rice
½ cup crème fraîche
5 garlic cloves, crushed & fried until soft
½ onion, very finely chopped & fried until soft
150g butter
4 tablespoons flour
½ cup white wine
1 cup cream
½ cup milk
2 egg yolks
¼ cup chopped parsley
½ cup shredded mozzarella
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
1. Preheat oven to 180’C.
2. Melt the butter in a pan, add the flour and whisk briskly until completely combined. Continue whisking for 5 minutes as the sauce foams and cooks.
3. Remove from the heat and leave for 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile combine the egg yolks with the wine.
5. Add the egg mixture to the cooled sauce and whisk quickly. It will form sticky dough.
6. Add the cream and mix until it becomes a thick sauce.
7. Add the milk in batches to thin out the sauce to desired consistency.
8. Add salt, garlic and onion and combine well.
9. In a bowl, mix the crème fraîche and white pepper with the rice and spread out evenly in the base of a baking dish.
10. Cover with hearts of palm, dispersing evenly.
11. Pour over creamy sauce.
12. Sprinkle with parlsey and then shredded cheese.
13. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until heated through, cheese has melted and edges are starting to brown.

Palm hearts are the edible core and bud of a variety of palm trees: Cocos nucifera (coconut palm), Euterpe edulis (juçara palm), Euterpe oleracea (açaí palm), and Bactris gasipaes (pejibaye or peach palm).

When harvested from the wild, the process kills the trees and this makes the palm hearts a very expensive food product. In fact palm hearts are used most commonly in salads and one of the most famous is the millionaire's salad.

It’s interesting to note that during the Depression it was known as swamp cabbage in Florida because only the poor were desperate enough to undertake the difficult task of chopping down the trees with axes and hand saws.

Commercially bred varieties, such as the Bactris gasipaes, have multiple shoots leading to a significant harvest that doesn’t kill the plant. Harvesting is still complicated so costs are still very high for the product.

Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Hawaii are all mass palm heart producers whereas France is the world’s largest importer.

They are eaten widely throughout tropical climates and have many names: palmito (Spanish), kalada (Indonesian), nyur (Malaysian), ubod (Filipino), pol bada (Sri Lankan), kaoteran (Thai).

From a 3m tree a 60cm, 1kg segment of trunk is sent to the factory where it is peeled down to the 100g core. The most tender sections are near the root and have a stronger flavour due to the concentration of nutrients within the tree.

They are high in fibre, low in calories and contain no cholesterol and very little fat.

I have never tried fresh palm hearts but apparently there is no comparison. Canned varieties taste very similar to artichokes and asparagus, which you could substitute in recipes.

Weekend Herb Blogging is being hosted by Rinku from Cooking in Westchester. Tune in for the recap over the next few days.




  1. I like these a lot, but I've only had them in salads. This sounds like a very tasty way to use them.

  2. This sounds very interesting. I can't quite remember the last time I had hearts of palm, but long enough ago that I can't remember the flavor. Anyway, if it tastes like Scallops Mornay, I would devinitely love this! (I've been having my own run of bad cookbook recipes, so am quite sympathetic about having to make up your own - although in the end, making up your own is more satisfying.

  3. I have to admit, that I never tried palm hearts. It's time to find some.

    Ulrike from


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