Hearts of palm or known as ubod is the fibrous pith from the central core of the coconut palm tree. The ubod that you buy tends to come from the top of the palm tree, nearest the leaves, essentially it is the youngest part of the trunk.
Hearts of palm are mild in flavor, tender, and perfect in salads, pies, or with pasta. Hearts of palm are considered a delicacy because of the labor intensive process of harvesting them. You can find them in almost any supermarket and if you haven’t tried them before, I highly recommend running to your local supermarket, grabbing a jar, and adding them to your salad for lunch or dinner. I can never get enough of hearts of palm and use any excuse to add them to a dish. But, what exactly are hearts of palm?
Simply put, hearts of palm are the inner core and growing bud of the palm tree. The stem of the palm tree is harvested and the bark is removed leaving a layer of white fiber around the central core. This fiber is removed leaving the center core of the heart of palm which is eaten. The fresh hearts of palm tend to be crisp and crunchy whereas the canned hearts of palm lose their crunchiness and are much softer.
Removing the ubod kills the tree, so it is usually a byproduct of a naturally fallen tree or because a tree is cut to make room for other agricultural crops, construction, landscaping, etc.
While it is a common ingredient here in the Philippines, it is special in that most folks (at least in the city). In other countries, particularly those in Europe where it is known as coeur de palmier, it is consumed in salads and other preparations and their starting ingredient is a canned version of the palm heart.
This heart of palm is rich in fiber, iron and folate, and it contains low levels of other important nutrients. It’s also a low-fat, cholesterol-free food. A one-cup serving of heart of palm contains 3.5 grams of fiber, about a tenth of the recommended daily amount.
Fiber may lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer. Heart of palm contains 4.5 milligrams of iron per cup, which helps the body build red blood cells, boost immunity and prevent fatigue. A one-cup serving supplies 57 micrograms of folate, which is not only a necessary nutrient for turning food into energy but also may help lower the risk of birth defects like spina bifida.
Heart of palm contains small amounts of potassium, zinc, phosphorous and vitamin C. To make the most of the health benefits of packaged hearts of palm, choose brands that are lower in sodium. It can also occasionally be found fresh in some specialty markets.
Here is a great video showing the whole process of harvesting to packaging the hearts of palm:
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