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Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening

Rising Stars of Farm and Field

In the newest crop of up and comers this spring, which fruits and vegetables will take away the crown from kale? We’ve identified several contenders springing up from all corners of the world, including veggies in hues of hot purple and deep black, spicy hot ghost peppers, green garlic. And you may want to keep replenishing your supply of kale, because it seems we’re not yet over this perennially popular green.

With vegetable-forward entrees dominating the dining scene, there’s more room than ever on the plate for garden fresh, vibrantly colored produce. Mike Kostyo of market research company Datassential and Miriam Wolk of the United Fresh Produce Association provide their top picks for spring ’18:


They look like bananas, but cook like potatoes, and are used in Cuban- and Puerto Rican-inspired dishes such as twice-fried plantain chips (tostones), as a side dish for sandwiches, or a dipping option for guacamole a la Bahama Breeze.


Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, they’re actually sunflowers resembling pieces of ginger, and can be served raw, in salads or to add crunch to an entrée. Use like potatoes, smashed, mashed or fried into chips, or pickle for use year-round.

Green Garlic

Harvested before mature bulbs or cloves form, green garlic is available for only a short time in early spring. Subtler than regular garlic, it adds a fresh flavor to salads, seafood and sandwiches, and with its local, regional and sustainable attributes, green garlic is expected to shine this spring. Also consider adding black garlic to the menu, simply a super-slow-roasted garlic that turns deep, dark black.

Crudité Platters

Not just small, modest ones for pre-meal munching, but huge, over-the-top platters that cover the entire table. While you may not go the route of the $38 platter at Chicago’s Clever Rabbit – decked out with white asparagus and truffle shavings, smoked maitake mousse and pickled mushrooms – try your own, slightly less extravagant version as a way to feature the season’s best.


Now valued as much for their flavor as for their bright vibrant color – ripe for Instagramming – pickled, roasted, grilled and raw radishes will be at nearly every type of restaurant. Beyond red, look for green, purple, pink and yellow colors; Daikon (white), used in Southeast and East Asian dishes; black Spanish; and watermelon, so named for its light green skin and pink flesh.

Wedge Salad

The classic iceberg lettuce salad reboots with romaine lettuce and next-level ingredients such as blue cheese crumbles, gorgonzola or feta, and slabs of thick-cut bacon.

Premium Mushrooms

Try chanterelles and maitake, for rich, meaty flavors that can go center of the plate just like the Portobello.

Hot Peppers

The two fastest-growing produce options on menus in recent years were ghost peppers and Calabrian chili peppers, with shishito peppers not far behind.


What doesn’t go on the plate is going in the smoothie cup or bowl, as operators pump up the health quotient with beets, spinach, pumpkin, cucumber and green apples. New ingredients coming into play include pitaya/dragonfruit, lychee, pear and avocado.

Finally, Kale is a Keeper …

…“as popular as ever, but in a different role,” insists Kostyo. “Instead of being the star of the menu, it's now another healthy workhorse green that customers know and like.”