A heart-based salad? How intriguing, Trader Joe’s. Was this done on a bet? Did some Hawaiian-shirt wearing executive in TJ HQ start shooting off at the mouth about how nobody, but nobody, could make a delicious salad centered on two different types of plant hearts? And then did a little guy (also in a Hawaiian shirt) step forward and go, “I created a salad out of goddamn marinated beets – just watch me.” If this is not what happened, please don’t correct me.
At any rate, Trader Joe’s Heart of Palm and Artichoke Salad feels absolutely decadent. God knows – God almighty in his blue heaven knows – that there’s nothing so good as a nice artichoke heart. To make a salad of them feels almost hubristic. They don’t look like so much – little, uninteresting, drab cubes sitting mundanely on a bed of arugula instead of, as I would have imagined, gleaming with magic sparkles and heavenly rays. A single bite, however, and I was immediately hooked. I didn’t doubt that this would be the case. I mean, it’s goddamn artichoke heart. I’m definitely on the record as a fan of mango, but my mango addiction doesn’t even compare to the pleasure I derive from a properly prepared artichoke.
I think we can all agree that the artichoke is an amazing food. It’s crazy looking as hell, fun to eat, strangely delicious and hides, in its secret, armored center, what might as well be a heart of gold – the absolute intersection of crunchy and succulent. It’s goddamn madness, the kind of food that, if it didn’t exist, Philip K. Dick would have had to drop acid to envision.
Not satisfied with only one heart, Trader Joe’s reaved a second from the palm tree. Heart of palm is less of a palette pleaser than artichoke heart, but has an intriguing taste and decadent history all its own. Also known by the evocative name “Millionaire’s Salad”, the heart of palm was historically harvested from the core of a young coconut palm – killing it outright after the long labor to raise it, and throwing away of the great worth of a mature palm tree. This, being more or less the culinary equivalent to lighting a cigar with a hundred dollar bill, earned the salad it’s name. Nowadays, heart of palm is less extravagantly wasteful – the heart is cut from a different type of palm that creates off shoots, allowing the core to be harvested without killing the whole tree.
The fanciness of the salad is beyond reproach – but does it taste any good? My love of artichoke heart aside I found this salad quite tasty. There are really three big flavors going on – the the succulent crunchiness of the artichoke heart, the marinated zing of the heart of palm and a touch of bitterness from the otherwise mild baby greens. These tastes meld into an enjoyable symphony of tastes, taking your tongue one way one moment and another way the next, but ultimately playing well together. At 7.5 oz, it’s a bit smaller than the average TJ salad, but packs big, novel flavors into it’s small size.
My one big mark against it is the salad dressing – a raspberry vinaigrette that hardly lives up to the name, a thick, opaque pink dressing with the appearance and consistency of Pepto Bismol. This purported vinaigrette packs a fair amount of fat as well, so I substituted Trader Joe’s Light Champagne Vinagarette instead. For a salad already so decadent, I thought a little champagne only a fitting touch.
Would I Recommend It: Yes. This is a tasty, if unusual, salad.
Would I Buy It Again: It’s got artichoke heart, man. I’ll be back.
Final Synopsis: A salad that manages to stand on it’s novelty.