Specialty items have long brought excitement to the produce department, so we asked the experts: what’s hot in specialty produce right now?
While black limes certainly wouldn’t win any beauty contests, they are winning over chefs, according to a recent article on Bloomberg.com where the trendy citrus is described as resembling “Ping-Pong balls that have been marinated in mud.” In reality, black limes are created by taking a small variety lime, boiling it in salt water and then drying it out (in the sun or an oven). Long used in Middle Eastern cuisine, black limes are gaining wider popularity by chefs who are using them (either whole or ground) to impart a sour, tangy note to dishes and also by bartenders who are finding creative ways to use the limes in cocktails.
YELLOW PITAHAYAS (aka yellow dragon fruit)
This brilliantly coloured fruit “has been a really popular item lately,” says Samantha Chan, a marketing and food safety expert at Van-Whole Produce in Vancouver. Chan describes this cactus fruit as being a lot sweeter and juicier than the more familiar red-skinned dragon fruit. It’s also high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Sourced from Ecuador and Vietnam, she says the yellow pitahaya has become a staple in Vancouver’s Asian markets where they’re often sold by the case when on promotion.
Susan Leung, senior import and export manager at Fresh Direct Produce says to watch out for atemoyas. These heart-shaped tropical fruits have a green bumpy skin with creamy, custard-like juicy white flesh and are sweet enough to eat like a dessert. Atemoyas are a hybrid of the sugar apple and the cherimoya. These fruits are available from Brazil, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Florida and California.
SWEET POTATOES & YAMS (purple, Jamaican and Japanese)
“We see increased offerings and consumption of a wider variety of sweet potatoes and yams,” says Davis Yung, president of Fresh Direct Produce. These include purple sweet potatoes from Hawaii and Vietnam, Jamaican yams and Japanese sweet potatoes. “They all offer a unique texture or flavour,” says Yung, noting these root veggies can be boiled, mashed, roasted, baked or fried, making them one of the most versatile produce items. As a bonus, they’re rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre.
“Charentais melons have gained great distribution in the last year as they are now available year-round,” says Robert Schueller, director of public relations at Melissa’s/World Variety Produce in Los Angeles. This small, orange-flesh melon is distinct for packing a lot of flavour and emitting a flowery aroma. Schueller says Charentais melons are especially popular in the fall to spring period, when other good-tasting melons are out of season