New varieties dominate produce trade show

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Doctors and other health experts are constantly telling us to eat our fruits and veggies.

United Fresh — the produce trade show — proves there are all sorts of new ways for us to do just that, and always with an eye toward convenience.

United Fresh was at Chicago’s McCormick Place last week. Here are a few of the new products I came across and trends I noticed:

While walking the show (which is not open to the public), it seemed as if everywhere I turned I saw tomatoes. Now, data from the National Farm-City Council shows the average American eats 22 to 24 pound of tomatoes a year; BUT, not fresh. Rather, in the processed forms of ketchup and tomato sauce. Maybe the show’s tomato turnout was to show its convenience and garner more interest in the fresh fruit (yes, tomato is a fruit).

Anyway, Campari and Mucci were showcasing containers that hold both red and yellow tomatoes (cocktails for Campari, cherry for Mucci). Village Farms was touting a mix of not only tomatoes of different colors, but sizes as well.

The popularity of heirloom tomatoes hasn’t gone unnoticed, either. Red Sun, for example, was featuring its Artisan Series of heirlooms.

New variety of tomatoes made a showing, too. Campari was promoting its Kumatoes, a European-bred tomato with a brownish-red skin. (I wrote about them here, when I first saw them in Chicago.) NatureSweet unveiled its Jubilees tomatoes, an Arizona-grown tomato made for slicing AND one is just right for one sandwich. (I wrote about a recipe featuring it here.)

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NatureSweet’s Jubilees tomatoes, good for a lone sandwich.

New varieties weren’t confined to just tomatoes, either. Sunkist introduced its Zebra lemons. They’re pink variegated lemons inside, with a yellow skin touting green strips (kinda reminded me of the outside of a squash). Good for cocktails!

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The inside of the Sunkist Zebra lemon is pink.

Coming to grocery stores this fall from Tasti-Lee is Sweetheart “Lettage,” a tender leaf cabbage (it looks like large leaf lettuce). The company is suggesting it be used in salads and sandwiches as a substitute for lettuce. It looks like it also would be good to use as a low-carb friendly wrap.

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In stores this fall: “Lettage.”

Produce companies have taken notice of the move away from carbs (particularly the refined variety) and to protein. Dole was featuring Protein and Fruit kits. There were larger protein-rich salads — including a thoughtful mint to freshen your breath afterwards — as well as snack-size kits that featured fruit and cheese or others with a dip (some sweet, others savory).

Speaking of snacks, produce companies also are offering options outside the traditional choices. Campari was featuring sweet, seedless smaller cucumbers (large pickle size) as a snack option — not in a jar, but fresh in packages. Pero Family Farms has a snack-size kit of green beans with a container of ranch dressing.

Pushing the health factor — and making it convenient — of different veggies was big, too. For example, Fresh Express has expanded its salad kit offerings to include the Digestive Health Mix and Antioxidant Heart Health Mix. Both packages tell you in both cases what inside is good-for-you.


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