harvesting fresh heart of palms

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.

palmheart1It 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 ediblepalmheart3 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 palmheart4with 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!

palmheart7In the end the palmheart6harvest 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.


25 Responses to “harvesting fresh heart of palms”

  1. 1 Bill Jacobs 2 November 09 at 11:52 am

    And here I was impressed with myself for successfully harvesting a coconut or two.

    I’ve never had fresh heart of palm; how would you describe it in comparison to the typical canned version that lurks in salad bars?

    • 2 murielolivares 2 November 09 at 8:01 pm

      It’s more sweet than salty. It tastes like a mild version of coconut meat, but with a slight nuttyness.

      • 3 Farmer Margie 2 November 09 at 8:31 pm

        …and NONE of that tinny flavor that I always taste in the canned stuff… we pretty much OD’d on it, it was so yummy (never imagined we could even do such a thing)!

  2. 4 Jennifer 2 November 09 at 11:27 pm

    So wondering if you can harvest hearts from any palm or are there certain varieties that are better than others? Just in case I find one lying on the side of the road 🙂

    • 5 Farmer Margie 3 November 09 at 1:28 pm

      Pretty much any heart is edible, per my understanidng. The big problem is that the heart of the palm is the growing point, so you of necessity kill the plant when harvesting it. There are two exceptions – one is for the multi-trunked palms, which send out several trunks from the base, so as long as you leave some trunks growing, you don’t kill the entire palm. The other exception is the one we were lucky to stumble across – someone had already cut them down and killed them! Swamp cabbage (the heart of our native cabbage palms) was a staple of native peoples and pioneer diets in this area. We should strive to preserve these wonderful, hurricane-resistant palms. The royal palms were eaten the same way in Cuba. We actually have a number of royals volunteering on our property. Some are growinjg in a hedge under the powerlines that gets trimmed regularly, so it’s a matter of time before they bite the dust…and then we’ll enjoy some young heart of palm again.

  3. 6 Bill Jacobs 3 November 09 at 10:19 am

    It sounds like its flavor would work well in sweet applications. With its creamy texture, flan or ice cream would be my first impulse. Did you try any of it that way?

  4. 7 murielolivares 3 November 09 at 9:40 pm

    Actually, it doesn’t have a creamy texture, it’s crisp and firm like coconut meat; it breaks off in long fibers like you’ve seen in the canned stuff. In my experience it isn’t nearly sweet enough to be a dessert; you’d have to add a lot of flavor and sweetness and then you’d loose the essence of it anyway. I shouldn’t knock it until I try though.

  5. 8 murielolivares 3 November 09 at 9:42 pm

    by the way, I have to say, I’m excited that the blog is acting as a forum for this kind of conversation. I really hope it happens more often.

  6. 9 Bill Jacobs 4 November 09 at 10:20 am

    If it has the texture of coconut meat, you might be able to intensify the flavor through an infusion, the same way coconut milk is made. Could be interesting.

    And on the last point, I was thinking of creating a discussion group for the CSA. It wouldn’t have all of the features a full-fledged message board would, but a Google or Yahoo group would be easy to use and easy to maintain. I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of traffic judging from how few visitors my blog got from mentions in the newsletter, but I could see it being of use for a handful of folks.

  7. 10 murielolivares 4 November 09 at 9:05 pm

    the problem with google and yahoo groups is that they clog your email, I know because my extended family has had one for over a year now and there have been many cases of members complaining about it. I have found it annoying myself.

    • 11 Bill Jacobs 4 November 09 at 9:21 pm

      You don’t have to forward the posts to your e-mail. They can just sit on Google’s (or Yahoo’s) server, nicely threaded into conversations. Just read them there; no e-mail involved.

  8. 12 jen 10 November 09 at 11:54 am

    MMmmmmmmm. I’m glad to know you didn’t kill them. Glad you could salvage some delicious hearts from those big boys!

  9. 13 big possum 18 November 09 at 5:47 pm

    Many palms have edible hearts. When cut in strips then boiled they resemble a cross of boiled egg noodles and cabbage. Depending on the zeal of your local gestapo it might actually be illegal (ill eagle) to remove roadside trash left out for pickup.

  10. 14 gwen 9 December 09 at 4:54 am


    Your palms are huge, never seen any of them that big !!
    I am actually in Prague where I run the kitchen of a fine dining restaurant. Is there anyone who can ship me some fresh hearts of palm. Up to now I couldn’t find anyone to import them fresh and my attemps with Hawai didn’t bring any result.

    Many thanks


    • 15 Farmer Margie 9 December 09 at 8:38 am

      Hello, Gwen,
      Royal palms are a native palm which is much used in landscaping. Since harvesting the heart kills the palm, it is very rare to have the chance to enjoy them, as we did. This was an adventure for us. We are not in the business of harvsting hearts of palm, and neither is anyone in South Florida that I know of. We grow veggies. And, we grow only to supply our local foodshed, and in small quantities, so we do not ship. Prague is a looong way away from us! Have you tried looking in the Mediterranean area?
      Good luck!

    • 16 robert petrucci 23 January 11 at 11:26 am

      I import them from costa rica maybe we can ship them directly from there call me

    • 17 David McGahee 28 January 12 at 9:03 am

      I have about 7000 big royal palms I’ll be cutting down soon. I have a palm farm in S. Fl. The landscape market is dead and they are overgrown.

      If anyone knows a “cannery” I can get thousands more……….

      • 18 Mike D. 10 October 12 at 12:54 pm

        David, if you still have some, please let me know so my dad can stop by to pick up a couple of them (He’s in Kendall). Thanks! guinsmike@hotmail.com

      • 19 Phillip 15 February 17 at 12:01 pm

        Live here in south Florida. I know your article is older but we were wondering if you had some Royals still available ? Please call me and let me know want to have some for the family. Thank you
        Phillip Henderson 786-236-5427

  11. 20 pat crackel 9 March 14 at 5:08 am


  12. 21 Raquel Robledo 2 November 15 at 2:10 pm

    Thanks for all this detailed info on harvesting. We have a 6 ac. farm which has lots of volunteer royal palms in all stages of growth. Many are growing very close to each other so we have been thinning since they were small. Despite our frequent thinnigs many have just missed our efforts and are 12-20 ft.tall and just 2 to 3 ft apart from each other. We will be thinning again soon, with intention to harvest the hearts of those removed. How long do they keep in the refrigerador ? Which material is best to wrap-package them IN ? Is it best to store in wáter or just with their natural humidity ?

  13. 22 Doug 18 December 15 at 12:21 pm

    Would like to know how to can Hearts of Palm using mason jars. Do we need a pressure cooker.

  14. 23 Sherrill Whittle 21 May 19 at 2:56 pm

    My dad did this when I was young (he was a WWII veteran and a Great father!) There were 5 of us kids and he and mom figured out great recipes…most including seafood since we lived in Miami. Thank you for bringing back beautiful memories to my heart. I’m 61 and lost Daddy and Mama many years ago. Keep building memories…they will last you a lifetime..

  1. 1 Possum Pizza « Redland Rambles Trackback on 19 November 09 at 10:36 pm
  2. 2 Does your heart weep for hearts of palm? - Burnt My FingersBurnt My Fingers Trackback on 16 July 19 at 12:44 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,493 other subscribers
November 2009

Blog Stats

  • 77,128 hits

Copyright © 2009-2012 – Bee Heaven Farm / M.Pikarsky

%d bloggers like this: