by Theresa Wilson
When I was a young child, Palm Sunday was a special day. Not only did it mean Easter Sunday was just so much closer, but we also “got something” at Mass! My sister and I would collect our palms as we walked into the church, and I remember sitting quietly trying my best to make perfect crosses with them. Eventually as I became a little older I learned how to make more intricate crosses from the blessed palms, which my parents made sure was done after Mass, of course.
I’m sure my children will be the same way I was, excited to “get something” when we go to Palm Sunday Mass. Together we’re going to make a hearts of palm salad to spark a conversation about Palm Sunday. We will use our time in the kitchen together to talk about how we too can welcome Jesus joyfully into our hearts just as the people of Jerusalem did that day.
Palm Sunday kicks off Holy Week as we see Jesus enter Jerusalem, with his followers welcoming him with palm branches. A tradition reserved for celebrated athletes and royals, they openly were recognizing him as their king.
In this simple salad, we are using hearts of palm, the inner core and bud of certain palms, most commonly from the coconut and acai trees. Although fresh hearts of palm can be found in some ethnic markets, the easiest way to find and use them is in a can, usually on the shelf with artichoke hearts at the grocery store. They have a very mild flavor with the slightest zing from the brine in which they are packed. They should be tender, not woody or fibrous, when you bite into them.
I find when I involve my kids in the cooking process, they are much more likely to try new ingredients. This salad is no exception! My daughter was especially interested in trying the hearts of palms because of our conversation about welcoming Jesus into our hearts as the people welcomed him into the city. “He was greeted with palms and now we get to eat them?!” The sweet orange dressing also got her excited about eating some greens.
And soon enough, I’ll teach them how to weave some really special palm crosses … after Mass, of course.
“Come, Lord Jesus,
be our guest;
let these gifts to us be blessed.
— “Come, Lord Jesus” from The Catholic Family Book of Prayers
Theresa Wilson is an alumnus of Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York. After pursuing her passion for all things food, she quickly rose the ranks in fine dining cuisine as a professional chef, and as a chef instructor and assistant director at a culinary institute. She is now a busy stay-at-home mom and short order cook to her amazing, energetic young daughter and son.