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Hearts of Palm
Hearts of palm are, literally, the heart of the sabal Palmetto, a tall, tough-barked graceful palm that is the state tree of Florida. Called "swamp cabbage" by native Floridians, it was long regarded as poor people's food--and was actively cut down as a source of food during the Depression, no mean task in the days before chain saws. It wasn't long, however, before its extreme tenderness and delicacy was noticed--and its name changed from "swamp cabbage" to "millionaires' salad." It wasn't long after that, then, that Florida enacted a state law to protect it from the ravenous gourmets.
Hearts of palm, of course, has flourished for thousands of years throughout Central and South America. In fact, at the time Columbus arrived in the new world, the Carib Indians were taking full advantage of what they called the Pejibaye tree. They housed themselves with its bark; put a roof over their heads with the leaves; ate the nuts of the mature tree...and ate the center core of the young plants.
Today this young tree is grown, harvested, and canned as a cash crop throughout Central and South America, especially Brazil. It needs 150 inches of rainfall each year to flourish, and cannot endure freezing weather. It is harvested at the age of 12 months, when the plant is about 5 feet tall and has an outside perimeter of 4 inches. To read about and see the process unfold before your eyes, you might visit www.ifrance.com/itenez and select the language of your choice there.
Hearts of palm have no cholesterol; have excellent fiber content, hardly any fat content, and are low in calories.