Taste for Locally Grown Asian Veggies Trending in the U.S.

For farmers who produce Asian vegetables in the eastern U.S., there is good news. According to a study delving into the popularity and feasibility of these niche crops, there’s a growing marketplace.

asian eggplant
Asian eggplant and Luffa gourd.

Led by Rutgers University, with collaboration of researchers from the University of Florida, University of Massachusetts, and Penn State University, the consumer preference study — published in the journal HortScience — was built from data gathered via phone interviews with 685 Asian-Americans in Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

Part of what was discovered includes knowledge about how much consumers spent on vegetables and herbs. Researchers then used consumer choices to test 28 cultivars at university plots in Florida, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. According to results, these cultivars were the most popular for Asian Indian consumers: bitter gourd, eggplant, fenugreek leaves, cluster beans, bottle gourds, turmeric, fenugreek, sorrel spinach, and radish greens.

Asians buy 2 ½ to 3 times as many vegetables as Caucasians, said Gene McAvoy, a UF/IFAS Extension Vegetable Specialist who participated in the study. “Growers are always looking for new vegetables,” he stated. “They want to get out in front of the competition. It’s been lucrative. For some medium-sized growers – that’s how they’ve been able to survive and even thrive.”

In addition, the population of Asian Americans has jumped by 32% from 2000 to 2011, according to the census bureau. Asians are expected to make up about 40 million Americans by 2030.

The rapid expansion of Asian populations in the U.S. provides significant opportunities and challenges for the produce sector to take advantage of their close proximity to densely populated areas, said Shouan Zhang, a UF/IFAS Plant Pathology Associate Professor, and part of the research team.

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