Saturday, June 14, 2014

Finding fresh heart of palm

Hearts of palm. Yum. I love those little babies. I love them in a clean fresh salad. They are super yummy roasted. Pasteis de Palmito are to die for. Palmitos – just plain yum.

When I first moved here I was excited by the idea of moving so close to the source of this delicious harvest. Palm trees. Brazil has a gazillion palm trees. Heart of palm should be a cheap and abundant yummy treat, right? Uh, yeah, not so much.

Turns out that Brazil was one of the biggest “producers” of palm hearts until the 1990s when the “farmers” realized that they had chopped away at most of the wild supply of suitable palm trees and their supply was dropping precipitously. At that point they had to get into the business of actually farming the plant and managing their harvests. So supply dropped for a while.

My purchase. I had the guy machete the edible center out of the outer layers.

Not all of the freelance palm poachers took to farming. Maybe they are out there snatching up wild açai or illegal song birds, or something. But those that did make the switch have seen things get off to a (normal) slow start. So prices are not so low. Plus, they export the really good stuff. So those of us actually living in palm tree heaven wind up paying a little more for a lesser quality product. Ah Brazil. You sure know how to break a guy’s heart. (Real heart, not the palm heart.)

Once cut out the center oxidizes quickly. Gotta get it into water.

At any rate, I saw a vendor at the street market today selling fresh palm hearts, still in the protective outer layers of non-edible palm-ness. Excited to see it so fresh, and reasonably priced, I bought a stalk.
I paid R$10 for what resulted in about 420 grams of yummy edibleness. That compares to a 300g jar sold for R$9. I saved a little more than R$2, relatively speaking. That 300g jar in the States goes for about US$4.25.

Stop. Stop right there. I see you US Americans doing the conversion in your head and saying to yourself: “So, hmmm, R$9 a jar there is just about the same as R$4.25 a jar here. Not bad…”  NOPE. It doesn't work that way. First, I am not a tourist at my grocery store spending my US earned US dollars on a product priced in Brazilian reais. If I earn my $$ in reais, I spend it in reais. So my R$9 is R$9. Then you have to consider that wages here are generally speaking half of what they are in the States for similar work (worse, most often, but let’s not squabble). So in reality that yummy looking little jar of lesser quality domestic brand hearts of palm is costing me, in very real terms (so to speak), a lot more than you in the States are buying it for.  Bummer. So much for moving to Brazil to get a deal on palm hearts.

How it should look after roasting. Yum.

Ah well. Big deal. The point is – it is yummy! And I got a big piece of it for a good deal today at my local street fruit and veggies market. My plan is to chop up half of it for a salad (and to just munch) – and to oil, salt, pepper, wrap in foil and roast the other half and have it with my dinner.

It was a good day at the market – and tangerines are in season too!

1 comment:

The Reader said...

*Exactly.* (on the "oh, same price....not really" bit). I got so tired of people doing that to us.

Looks like an amazing find! Glad you were able to score some fresh palmito!