Getting To The Core Of Palms

Ed Sindt with a tender heart of palm. Daniel Lane photos

Working with several small family farms, Kaua’i Roots Farm Co-op (KRFC) sells seasonal fruit and farmfresh vegetables at South side farmers markets, and offers membership in a community supported agriculture program (CSA).

CSA shares are offered at six-week durations, and discounts are available for longer memberships. A Family Box ($25/week) serves four adults for one week, the Couples Box ($17/week) serves two adults per week and the Singles Box ($12/week) serves one adult for a week.

What’s growing now: Apple bananas, avocados, beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, fennel, grapefruit, heart of palm, herbs, kale, lettuce, longan, lychee, mangoes, mountain apples, oranges, papaya, radishes, radicchio, scallions, Surinam cherries, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, taro, tomatillos.

HEART OF PALM

Heart of palm is the tender core of a palm tree. KRFC sustainably harvests from peach palms because they sprout multiple stems or “keiki” after a large trunk or “mother” is harvested. Heart of palm is considered a delicacy because of its labor-intensive harvest process that requires stripping the core from the outside bark. KRFC is the only known heart of palm producer on Kaua’i.

Sindt harvests the mother stalks and leaves the keiki

The peach palm has been cultivated since prehistoric times in South and Central America.

Season: Seeds take 90 to 120 days to germinate, and 18 months from keiki to harvest. KRFC harvests heart of palm year round.

What to look for: Hawaiian hearts are divided into three parts: the wide base, the fully trimmed meat and the slender upper shaft in its bamboo-like sheath. Fresh heart of palm should be milky white and firm, with a resilient flexibility.

Storage: Store wrapped in a dry paper towel, in a bag in the refrigerator, for up to two weeks.

Tip: For an alternative to mashed potatoes, steam the base until tender and blend it with butter and cream. Slice the base into quarterinch rounds, toss in oil and your favorite spice blend, and grill, roast or sauté until tender.

Preparation: Fresh heart of palm is crisp, tender and mildly sweet. Its porous flesh absorbs flavors easily and pairs well with greens, herbs, seafood, citrus, soy sauce, pesto, chilies, ginger, spices and marinades.

Sindt slices a section of the tender base

Wide, juicy shoots derived from the base of the tree are slightly fibrous. They can be cooked or cubed and eaten raw in salads. Use as a replacement for potato chips and dip into salsas, bean dip or hummus. Add to stir-fries, stews, chowders, quiche and casseroles, or top pizza with thin slices. The slender stem isn’t as moist because it’s composed of tender leaves folded inside the shoot, similar to layers in a leek. It’s best eaten raw, tossed into salads, or pickled with beets for a beautiful and unique snack.

Health benefits: One hundred grams contains 5 percent protein. Heart of palm is high in fiber, and rich in vitamin B6, potassium, zinc, copper and omega-6 fatty acids. Vitamin B6 is necessary for the conversion of amino acids, protein, fat and carbohydrates for energy or storage. Potassium plays a vital role in many body functions including muscle contraction, nerve transmission and the conversion of blood sugar. Zinc is an essential trace mineral that fights disease, assists in hormone function and facilitates in alcohol detoxification.

Kauai Roots Farm Coop produce can be found at: Farmers Market: Koloa Sunshine Market (Mondays at noon); Kalaheo Sunshine Market (Tuesdays at 3 p.m.); Kaua’i Culinary Market at Kukui’ula (Wednesdays 3:30 p.m.); Kaua’i Community Market at Kaua’i Community College (Saturdays at 9:30 a.m.). Restaurants: Merriman’s, and local produce distributor Cultivate. For more information, call 332-0154 or visit kauairoots.com.

Kathy’s Clam Linguini. Daniel Lane photos

KATHY’S CLAM LINGUINI

Kathy Bates, not the actress but the wife of Ed Sindt, is an expert at turning this delicacy into many savory dishes. She tosses heart of palm into everything including pasta laced with pesto. Here, she shares her recipe for one of Ed’s favorite dishes. Kathy says either the stem or base can be used in this recipe, but using the base is best. KRFC heart of palm is only available at Kaua’i Culinary Market at Kukui’ula.

* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 1/4 cup butter
* 3 cloves garlic, crushed
* 1/2 pound “base” of heart of palm, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds and diced
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
* 1 6.5-ounce can minced clams, with juice
* 1/2 pound linguine or spaghetti
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine olive oil, butter, garlic and parsley; simmer and let reduce. Add some clam juice if the sauce reduces too much. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for three minutes or until al dente; drain. Save the water that the pasta was boiled in and add 1/4 cup water to sauce to act as a thickener. Add clams to the skillet and heat through. Top with cheese and serve immediately.

Makes three servings.

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