By Krystal Hauserman, Foodable Contributor
With the start of a new year come the lists of new and exciting trends. Out with the old and in with the shiny and new! (Well, new to you and me -- some of these things have been around for thousands of years.) What interesting ingredients, methods and movements are arriving on the food scene in 2015? From a “new” drought-resistant superfood to the resurgence of a traditional, small-scale method to prepare milk and cheese, here are six emerging trends you need to know about to keep your “top foodie” title for another year.
Moringa. Move over kale, there is a new high-octane superfood in town. Moringa oleifera (“moringa”) may just be the world’s most nutritious green. Billed as “the miracle tree,” moringa is credited with curing or preventing close to 300 diseases in Ayurvedic medicine. Some studies suggest it has diabetes, cancer and arthritis-fighting abilities. Moringa is nutritionally dense; packed full of protein, vitamin A, potassium, calcium and vitamin C. Fast growing and drought resistant, moringa is becoming a star player in fighting malnutrition in developing countries. Although native to the sub-Himalayan areas of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, it is also grown in tropical regions. Like with many vegetables, cooking the moringa causes it to lose some of its nutritional properties. Enter dried and powdered moringa leaf from producers like Kuli Kuli, which aims to provide everyone who wants access to moringa the knowledge and means to do so. Expect to see moringa powder “boosts” on juice bar menus and at superfood cafes like SoCal’s beaming.
Fonio. Fonio might be “the new quinoa,” but trendy catchphrases aside, this tiny supergrain is a serious contender in the fight against world hunger. Like moringa, fonio is fast-growing and thrives in poor soil with very little water, which is why it has been successfully cultivated in West Africa for thousands of years. Add in the fact that fonio is gluten free, high-protein and has to be grown organic (pesticides kill it), and you have the makings of “the next big thing.” New York-based Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam, author of the cookbook Yolele!, is on a mission to bring fonio to market in the U.S. this year.
Coconut Palm Sugar. Although hardly “new” (Big Tree Farms was a pioneer in bringing coconut sugar to the U.S. market in 2008), this cane sugar alternative is a nutrient-dense, low glycemic (35 GI, compared to 68 GI for cane sugar), unrefined sweetener from Southeast Asia made from the nectar of the coconut tree. Coconut sugar has a warm, nutty flavor, similar to brown sugar. Coconut sugar also has the "feel good" element millennials look for when making buying decisions. You will surely start seeing coconut sugar on menus and in your favorite baked goods and beverages this year.
Low Temperature Pasteurization. While the retail sale of unpasteurized (raw) milk is currently legal in only a handful of states due to concerns about foodborne illness, low temperature pasteurization (LTP) is an arguably safer alternative. In LTP, also known as vat or batch pasteurization, fresh milk is gently heated in small batches to a steady 145 degrees for 30 minutes, then cooled quickly, whereas the standard for large scale industrial operations is 161 degrees for 15 seconds. Proponents of LTP believe the flavor of the milk is better preserved. Because of the extended time and small batching required for this process, expect to see smaller, artisan producers touting their use of LTP for their milk, yogurt and cheese as a selling point.
Aquaponics. What might have seemed like quirky science fiction only a few years ago is headed toward the mainstream. Aquaponics is a food production system that combines hydroponics (cultivating plants in nutrient rich water, without soil) and aquafarming (raising freshwater and saltwater organisms like fish and crustaceans) in a symbiotic environment. By-products of the water animals are used as nutrients by the plants. The impact of this system has the potential to be profound. Nonprofits in developing countries and the U.S. where growing conditions are adverse (extreme climates, poor soil) are already using aquaponics to grow local, chemical-free produce for underserved communities. And the perfection of indoor systems promises to extend growing seasons to year-round. Chefs and amateur cooks can try their hand at growing fresh herbs and lettuce with a mini AquaFarm.
Permaculture. If Michael Pollan’s 2006 “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” is the manifesto on what we should be eating, Mark Shepard’s 2013 “Restoration Agriculture” suggests a detailed roadmap for turning back the clock to a pre-industrial system to get us there. Instead of rows of corn, picture a “farmtopia” of fruit and nut trees, berries, mushrooms, animals, bees and perennial vegetables. As consumers become more aware of the taste, ecological and economic benefits of eating local, demand for food produced in this manner will continue to grow. Indeed, as Shepard suggests, the survival of our very species depends on it. Restaurants led by passionate proprietors that adhere to the principles of responsibility, seasonality and sustainability like Richard Satnick of Portland’s Dick's Kitchen will continue to find success.