The Vegetable Trend


Photo:  La Tartine Gourmande on flickr

Vegetables are hot — declared the new meat by New York Magazine and the next big trend by Food and Wine.

Indeed, it’s a good time to be vegetables.  Now if only we can get people to eat more of them!  As I recently wrote about, only 6% of Americans are eating enough veggies.  Most people fall dramatically short of  recommendations — five or  more servings a day.

Even so, we’re going to have lots more options to choose from, writes Elizabeth Sloan in an article “A New Vegetable Medley” featured in November’s Food Technology.

The American Culinary Federation chefs surveyed by the National Restaurant Association in October 2010 named locally grown produce, hyper-local (restaurant gardens), organic produce, micro-greens, pickled vegetables, hybrid vegetables (e.g. broccoflower), vegetable ceviche, warm appetizer salads and children’s vegetable side items and entree salads among the hot trends for 2011.

592302749_907a656010_oWith the strong movement to American regional cuisine, ACF chefs expect sweet potatoes, root vegetables and dark/bitter greens (e.g., kale, beet tops, broccoli rabe) to move onto mainstream menus. Jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes, edamame, hot peppers, Asian mushrooms, radish/daikon, cabbage, eggplant and specialty potatoes (e.g., purple, fingerling, Baby Dutch Yellow) are other vegetables that the chefs predict will be hot in 2011.

In cutting-edge fine-dining restaurants, asparagus, eggplant, peas, okra, corn on the cob, artichoke hearts and grilled vegetables are among the top vegetable sides on menus, according to the Foodservice Research Institute’s MenuMine database. Eggplant, plantain, Brussels sprouts, and Swiss Chard are among the gainers on the a la carte side dish list.

Photo:  La Tartine Gourmande on flickr

Butter and cheese sauces, marinara, barbecue, garlic and soy sauces are topping off vegetables served in fine-dining restaurants.  Mexican, Cajun, Italian and Asian are among the trendy vegetable seasoning blends. Dill, ginger, cinnamon, chives, rosemary and basil are among the spices frequently used to season veggies, according to MenuMine.

Sloan says watch for more wine, curry, mustard and tomato sauces for vegetables, more ethnic blends, more crunch from nuts or fried onions, and restaurant-branded vegetable-based products. Other product concepts with potential include vegetables mixed with beans, pulses or pasta and vegetable dishes spiced up with a twist of Szechuan or jalapeno pepper or a signature item such as Chinese cabbage.

Other menu trends:  sesame- or panko-breaded appetizer vegetable tidbits, vegetable ceviches, pizzas, terrines and souffles.  Salad sandwiches are among the menu trends identified in Technomic’s 2010 Sandwich Report.


Photo:  Vegetable ceviche in tomato cups by janello on flickr

Expect to see some new vegetable buzzwords, says Sloan.  With the concern over safety and country of origin, she says hothouse products and hydroponics will get a boost.  Supermarkets will begin to sell their produce outdoors in set-ups designed to resemble farmers markets. Additionally, with 57% of consumers aware of the term “phytochemicals,” according to Mintel’s 2009 Functional Foods report, look for more “natural goodness” and “naturally rich in” descriptors on vegetables and vegetable-based products.  We’ll also see more blending of vegetables to achieve very high fiber or antioxidants levels.

What are your favorite vegetables?  Have you enjoyed an innovative vegetable dish in a restaurant recently?


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