17 April: Palm Hearts for Palm Sunday

'This is my playes last scene, here heavens appoint

My pilgrimages last mile; and my race

Idly, yet quickly runne, has this last pace,

My spans last inch, my minutes last point....'

From 'Divine Meditations' by John Donne (1572-1631)

We seem to have rather gotten away from traditional feasts recently, so I thought I would revisit Palm Sunday. Last year I made a fig tart inspired by the English tradition of eating fig pudding on this day –


but today I’m going to be quite literal.

I’ve had a tin of palm hearts in my kitchen cupboard for ages, waiting for that special occasion to bring them out, then when I was in Paris last week I nearly bought another tin before I remembered them – so what better time to eat them than Palm Sunday?

These days most palm hearts or ‘palmitos’ are grown in Costa Rica, a country for which I have a great affection although I’ve never been there. In 1949 it amended its constitution so as to prohibit the establishment of an army. This has meant that over the last sixty years, money which might have been spent on arms has been channelled into health and education, with the result it is one of the most stable democracies in Central America with literacy and infant mortality rates on a par with the more developed world, even though it is still very poor. It is also increasingly ‘green’ in all its government policies, and the whole country plans to be carbon neutral by 2021. Today 25% of the country is environmentally protected as national park and yet it still manages to produce some of the best coffee in the world…

Costa Rica became a haven for American Quakers during the Korean and later the Vietnam War, when they were prosecuted for their refusal to fight or pay taxes which might have supported the US war effort. The Quaker community up in the cloud forest at Monteverde is inspirational: http://www.monteverdeinfo.com/monteverde-community.html

Here's what the cloud forest in the Monteverde reserve looks like:

Catholics in Costa Rica celebrate Palm Sunday - Domingo de Ramas, by waving palm fronds in huge processions (Quakers don’t!) but everyone can enjoy food with palm hearts whatever their beliefs. This is what you might be eating in Costa Rica this week:-

Pastel de Palmitos y Atún – a pie filled with tuna, palm hearts, eggs and spices

Arroz con Palmito – a rice dish with palm hearts and chicken broth

Pollo con Palmito – chicken and palm hearts – a sort of gratin

Chiles marrones Rellenos con Palmito – purple chile stuffed with palm hearts

Empanadas de chiverre – a little pasty filled with white spaghetti squash

Conchas de pescado con palmito – fish with palm hearts

So actually my idea of eating palm hearts on Palm Sunday wasn’t so mad after all! Here's a Latin American inspired salad.

Salad of quinoa, asparagus, avocado and palm hearts

I tin of palm hearts ( look for produce of Costa Rica on the tin)

6 asparagus spears lightly cooked

I avocado

1 cup of quinoa

1/2 chilli - or to taste

juice and rind of half a lime

tablespoon of chopped parsley

Home made vinaigrette - I use 100g extra virgin olive oil to 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, 1 clove of garlic and a teaspoon of salt. I make it in a jar and shake, keep in the fridge and top up as necessary.

Rinse the quinoa then cook it by adding it with twice its volume of water to the pan and simmer for about 10 minutes until translucent

Drain it and whilst it's warm add the vinaigrette - about 2 tablespoonfuls then add the grated lime rind and the juice. Let the whole thing cool down. Chop the palm hearts at an angle and add to the quinoa with the chopped chilli and parsley, toss lightly. Put into a pretty dish and lay the asparagus and sliced avocado on top, garnish with more lime or lemon slices. Serve cool but not chilled.

'....Serene will be our days and bright

And happy will our nature be,

When love is an unerring light,

And joy its own security.'

From: 'Ode to Duty' by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)


Anonymous said...

I've been to the Monteverde Cloud Forest! What a remarkable place! I spent two weeks hiking around Costa Rica when I was younger (and fitter).

And I love hearts of palm though have never had it from a tin. Is it good? When we lived in Mauritius my dad's surgery was in our house and some of his not-so-well-off patients used to bring us things like goats and heart of palm (an entire palm) as payment.

Liz said...

Well I never! Actually I think palm hearts are really good and tasty - even from a tin...

A Trifle Rushed said...

Love the palm hearts Liz. In England when I was little we always had Palms, and I loved making them into crosses, which then you kept until Passion Sunday the next year. Now the crosses are pre-made (to stop children playing during Mass).
Here in Brittany, people seem to bring greenery from their gardens, rather then have palms provided at church!
Happy Easter Jude x

Mary Beth said...

I am so glad that you posted all about Costa Rica. I had *no* idea about any of it, and I love so much that they decided to invest in children instead war. You can bet that I checked for "Costa Rica" on the canned hearts of palm that I bought for my Palm Sunday dinner. I didn't make your dish exactly, but was inspired to make a nice asparagus, hearts of palm, onion and orange salad with an orange vinaigrette. (I had made some pasta earlier so we had that for the main dish). I didn't have time for the fig tart this year, but had some prepared cuccidata cookie filling with figs and dates and nuts that I used as a filling for a variation on raisin bread for dessert.

I new found appreciation for hearts of palm thanks to you and will now likely keep some handy for adding a little something extra to some salads.

I spent a most profitable hour or so browsing through some of your archived posts. Again, just lovely writing! I am looking forward to your next post.