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Consumer Trends

Vegetables are stealing the show

Americans are expressing an increased desire to consume more vegetables, according to “Vegetables & Sides: Culinary Trend Mapping Report,” based on research by the Center for Culinary Development (CCD). And we’re not just talking lettuce and tomatoes here; veggies like kale and brussels sprouts are steadily claiming larger portions of the dinner plate, popping up in menus across the country.  Nutritional concerns, a more varied supply, booming farmers’ markets and chefs’ creativity are all driving the trend. Here are a few sub-trends to watch.

Fried Brussels Sprouts: Brussels sprouts are now taking a dive into the deep-fryer as restaurants and food trucks feature fried Brussels sprouts as a snack or side dish. Deep-frying Brussels sprouts might seem to cancel out their health benefits, but that isn't deterring diners.

Savory Baked Goods: Creative pastry chefs are raiding the savory pantry and adding vegetables to their desserts. Two whimsical examples: Smoked White Chocolate Parfaits with Fennel Mousse and Beet Cake with Fromage Blanc Frosting. By highlighting the unique flavors and mild sweetness of vegetables in desserts, these chefs are ranging beyond standards such as carrot cake and zucchini bread.

Sea Vegetables: Long appreciated in diverse cultures around the globe, sea vegetables such as nori, dulse and kelp are now washing up on American menus as diners learn to appreciate their distinctive flavors and nutritional powers. Salty, briny sea vegetables infuse dishes with umami. They are commonly used as a seasoning, ground and added to spice rubs, spice blends and vegetable coating batters, but can also be an ingredient in rice dishes and stir fries.

Kale: With its soul food resonance, superfood profile and health foodie advocates, this leafy green could very well follow the path that baby spinach and bagged greens have taken in the past decade and become an accessible, steady addition to the dinner table.

Sweet Potatoes: Never a hard sell, sweet potatoes have long been a favorite in classic holiday dishes and Southern cuisine. But the bright orange vegetable has truly hit the mainstream, with the explosion of sweet potato fries on quickservice menus.

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