This has got to be one of the most amazing food related things I’ve ever done, especially considering how much I love palm hearts.
It all started when Robert, of Possum Trot, called Margie about a “treasure” he found on his way home. Driving down one of the side streets in the Redland he saw a gigantic pile of freshly cut down mature Royal Palms and lucky for us he knew that inside those trunks was a tender edible heart. Margie and I dropped everything to meet him at the location to get a lesson on harvesting fresh heart of palm. When we stepped out of the car we were overwhelmed by the size of the pile and of the individual sections of palm trees. We couldn’t help but wonder why someone would cut these huge, healthy and expensive trees down?
Choosing the right pieces to cut was the first step. Robert pointed out to us that the edible heart lies inside of the trunk between the brown woody part and where the fronds begin to form. It is a small section relative to the overall size of the tree and easily distinguished by a smooth bright green color. Once we chose a piece, using small axes, we started hacking in a straight line length-wise until the first layer peeled off. Then we kept hacking until the second layer peeled off and the third and the fourth and the fifth. It wasn’t easy work, each peel weighed about 30 pounds! These trees are extremely fibrous and heavy with moisture, but as you get closer to the center the peels become whiter, denser and very tender. It was a climactic moment when we opened the last peel and saw the smooth creamy flesh! Even though we cut so much away it was amazing how big the heart was. Robert loaded it into his truck as well as one other piece to harvest layer and helped us pick out and load 2 pieces to bring back to the farm.
Harvesting palm hearts, especially from Royal Palms because they are so huge, is a messy, sweaty, long process, but I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to try it!
In the end the harvest was about 40 pounds!
We fermented 2 gallons of it, half as a kimchi (which came out beyond awesome!) and half as a slaw-style shredded ferment with scallions, garlic, ginger and mustard seeds. I’ve been cooking with the fresh pieces for weeks, mostly using it shredded in stir fries. One of my favorites was a stir fry served cold with chick peas, lentils and some other stuff marinated in a vinaigrette.