Most of us have tried, or at least heard of, a vegetable called the heart of palm. People eat it fresh or preserved all over the world. When eating the heart of a palm, also commonly called a palmito, chonta, swamp cabbage, or palm heart, you are eating the actual heart of the palm tree. 

palm heart

Main Physical Characteristics of a Palm

Palm trees, belonging to the family genus Arecaceae, are a type of evergreen tree characterized by branchless stems and a crown of fronds. These fronds fall into one of three styles: fan, feather, or entire. The stems of the palms are composed of a trunk or multiple trunks. This is where the heart of the palm is located: at the core of the trunk. 

The main stem in the palm is what keeps the palm standing upright, and is what keeps it alive. The heart is a soft, delicate structure that is protected by a tough trunk. If the outside temperature falls below the palm’s tolerable range, the palm starts to suffer. First, the fronds will stop photosynthesizing and eventually fall off. However, this does not mean the palm is dead. If the heart is still warm, it is still alive and will eventually grow new fronds. Yet, if the heart of the palm freezes, the palm will die. Maintaining a warm heart of the palm is paramount to the tree’s survival.

Nutritional Benefits of the Heart of Palm

palm benefits

Nutritionally, the heart of the palm should be considered a superfood. They are low in fat yet high in protein and contain seventeen different amino acids as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus. Hearts of palm are high in antioxidants and have been known to help regulate blood pressure, in addition to being high in fiber and rich in vitamins A, B, and C. It is no coincidence it is considered one of the greatest delicacies of the culinary world because of its nutritional benefits and delicious taste. The versatility of the heart of palm, which can be enjoyed raw or cooked, as imitation crab or even as gluten-free pasta, only adds to its status as a culinary delicacy.

harvest palms

Harvesting the Heart of the Palm

One main reason the heart of palm is considered such a delicacy is that it is difficult and costly to harvest palms due to their slow maturation. While there are wild sources of the heart of palms, such as coconut, acai, and sabal palms, many governments have conservation laws protecting the palms from being harvested for their heart. Harvesting hearts of palm kills the plant, which took so long to grow in the first place. Fortunately for the production of hearts of palm, certain varieties of palms, such as the peach palm of Colombia, have been domesticated and trained to grow in clusters of numerous stems so that it does not die when harvested for their heart. The peach palm grows quickly and is one of the main sources for the hearts of palm worldwide.

Invest in Cold Hardy Palm Trees From Atlanta Palms

The heart of the palm, located at the core of its trunk, is not only nutritious, delicious, and versatile, but it also protects the palm from freezing temperatures. If the palm is cold-hardy, like many of the palms at Atlanta Palms, they will survive varying drops in temperature. Before you buy a palm, it is important to research your growth zone characteristics and buy a palm that will survive there. For more information on cold-hardy palm trees or to buy palm trees in Atlanta, contact the team at Atlanta Palms today!