Grocery Guides

Heart of Palm – All You Need to Know | Instacart’s Guide to Groceries

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Last Updated: May 17, 2022

What is heart of palm?

Also referred to as palmito, palm cabbage, or chonta, heart of palm is the core (or as the name suggests, the heart) of specific breeds of palm trees/plants. After a palm tree has been cut down, the heart is harvested by removing all the palm leaves and sheaths until the edible center is visible. The heart is cylindrical in shape and is typically around three to four feet in length when whole. The heart of palm is a creamy white color and is firm yet supple in texture. As for flavor, the heart of palm is often compared to an artichoke heart or white asparagus. Heart of palm can be eaten on its own, incorporated into healthy salads, or used as a meat alternative for vegan or vegetarian dishes. Shop for heart of palm.

Where did heart of palm originate from?

Heart of palm is derived from specific varieties of palm trees known as bactris gasipaes. These palm trees are native to Central and South America. They are believed to have been grown and consumed as a staple crop by indigenous people for thousands of years before it was introduced to European colonists. Although heart of palm can be found in parts of the United States like Florida and Hawaii, the top commercial growers and exporters of hearts of palm are Brazil and Costa Rica.

How is heart of palm grown?

To ensure that the creamy white vegetable is continually available and producing new crops, the particular variety of palm trees used for hearts of palm (bactris gasipaes) have been purposely bred to grow multiple stems. Although one plant has multiple stems, farmers will only harvest one stem from each tree over a time span of six to nine months. When the farmers cut the last stem off the plant, new shoots will already be growing. By limiting the harvesting supply, the palm plants have an extended life and reproduction cycle, making the plant more sustainable as a whole.

Once the stems are harvested, the sheath of leaves encasing the heart of palm is removed to reveal the edible center. The center is typically cut into cylinder shapes or is sliced into rings before getting packaged with water or brine to preserve its freshness.  

When is heart of palm in season?

Heart of palm is harvested and in season throughout the year. If fresh heart of palm is not available at your local grocery store, try searching for canned heart of palm.

How do you pick heart of palm at the grocery store?

Fresh heart of palm may be difficult to come by as it perishes quickly and can be expensive. However, whether you purchase raw or canned heart of palm, ripe heart of palm should be white or ivory in color with a slightly firm texture. If you cannot find raw or fresh heart of palm, try opting for canned or jarred heart of palm. You can typically find canned heart of palm near other pickled or canned vegetables. Because they are similar in taste and texture, look for canned heart of palm near the canned artichoke hearts and asparagus. Shop for canned artichoke hearts.

How to store heart of palm

Fresh heart of palm perishes quickly. If you can find fresh heart of palm, it is best to store it in the refrigerator. The colder the temperature, the longer the vegetable will retain its freshness. However, do not store your heart of palm in the freezer. Because heart of palm is high in water content, freezing the vegetable will drastically alter the delicate texture. Wrap unused portions of your heart of palm in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Fresh heart of palm typically will have a shelf life of 10 to 14 days.

Canned or jarred heart of palm should be stored in a dry, cool place when unopened. After opening, transfer your remaining heart of palm into a glass, airtight container. Store the heart of palm in the refrigerator and consume within one week for peak freshness.

How to tell if heart of palm is bad

When fresh, heart of palm will be white or ivory in color. If your heart of palm has started to go bad, it will change in color and smell. If you notice any blemishes or dark spots, this may be a sign that your heart of palm has started to spoil. Additionally, if there is any foul or sour odor, this may also be a signal that your heart of palm has started to go bad.

What can I substitute for heart of palm?

Because it is often used as a texture comparison, you can try substituting artichoke hearts for heart of palm. Artichoke hearts are also creamy and meaty in texture and can make a great meat substitute. People will commonly describe the flavor of heart of palm to white asparagus, which can make another great alternative. Shop canned white asparagus.

For something a bit out of the box, try swapping out your heart of palm for jackfruit. Both vegetables are used as meat substitutes in vegetarian or vegan dishes because of their meaty, substantial texture.

Shop for heart of palm

Heart of palm is a creamy, delicate vegetable that can be incorporated into salads, vegetarian dishes, or even eaten raw. If you want to incorporate heart of palm into your next culinary adventure, browse local or specialty markets in your area. To save time, you can easily shop for heart of palm via Instacart. After adding a product to your cart, use the “Instructions” option to notify your Instacart shopper about any preferences or specific directions on how to choose the best products and then decide if you want your groceries delivered or if you want to pick them up curbside. Shop canned heart of palm.

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Instacart is the leading online grocery platform in North America, partnering with more than 750 beloved national, regional and local retailers, including unique brand names, to deliver from more than 70,000 stores across more than 5,500 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

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