Food Trends Driving Growth Opportunities for Florida Farmers

Florida-grown Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts a favorite among foodies? Yep. If not already, growers should consider adding this cole crop to the mix.
Photo by Bonnie C. Wells

Food trends come and go. But for ones that gain traction, they certainly can influence what you grow. So, what’s cookin’?

According to noted “Supermarket Guru” and author Phil Lempert, sustainability is among the top trends shaping the culinary world in 2017.

Surveys show more consumers today care about where their food is coming from, who is doing the growing, and how it is grown. Beyond just a trend now, the grow-local/buy-local movement has spread its roots and is gaining ground with each passing year. And you have adapted/are adapting. More growers are partnering to provide that local flavor being sought.

On the Menu

During a cole crops field day I attended in Hastings, FL, this past November, Candace Anderson of Bejo Seeds spoke about alternative crops for local growers to consider. Among the items on her list were selections fueled by current consumer food trends. The lineup featured Brussels sprouts, broccoli rabe, beets, carrots, and Asian veggies. Some of the selections on the list were a surprise. Who would have ever thought Brussels spouts would be a gastronomic darling? And beets, really?

However, as I dug further in my search for more emerging trends, there was a growing consensus among what I found.

asian eggplant
Asian veggies like eggplant and Luffa gourd are hot right now.

According to a recently published study, locally grown Asian vegetables are trending in the U.S. This not only jibes with what I heard during the field day, but also it is good news for growers who already have found that niche, and others possibly seeking one.

Per the study, a research team — which included input from UF/IFAS scientists — set out to find intel about how much money consumers spent on ethnic vegetables and herbs. From there, the researchers used the consumer choices to test numerous cultivars at university plots in Florida, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. According to results, the following cultivars were the most popular for Asian-Indian consumers: bitter gourd, eggplant, cluster beans, bottle gourds, turmeric, fenugreek, sorrel spinach, and radish greens.

Are you growing any of these? I can think of a few operations around the Tri-County Agricultural Area that are. And based on statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, the American population is expected to include 40 million Asians by 2030. Sounds like an opportunity too good to pass up.

Here’s to Your Health

In addition to sustainability, Lempert says “enhanced foods” are hot. Enriched with nutritious components like antioxidants, herbs, and extra protein, mundane food becomes superfood. He predicts more of this to come from items like matcha (a fine powder ground from specially grown and processed green tea), butter, botanicals, edible cannabis, and (once again) beets.

Need another case in point? If you haven’t checked out what Ft. Pierce, FL-based Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co. is serving up lately, you might be surprised to find other fruit and now veggies among its award-winning citrus juice selections. New juices include: Carrot Tomato Celery; Pumpkin Apple Spice; and yes, Orange Beet.

If you can’t beat (beet) ’em, join ’em.

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