Agri Leader

Food trends for 2014: What's hot?

The word is out about the hot new foods trends we are seeing in 2014, and one of the biggest trends of all involves incorporating superfoods like blueberries, chia, kale, quinoa and salmon into one's diet. All is good news for better health and for many Florida growers and farmers.

Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities out there and their taste is easy to love. Florida's blueberry industry has grown from a few hundred acres to more than 4,000 acres over the last 30 years. Picked fresh, topped on salads or stirred into homemade jam or muffins and the taste can't be beat. Speaking of homemade, home cooking and baking are also more of the new food trends we are seeing, as homemade ensures taste and quality, and is generally more economical.

Chia seeds, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, are being added to foods such as healthy drinks, snack foods and even cereals. The chia plant is native to the American Southwest and northern Mexico; however, the plant is also being grown in South Florida. The plant is part of the mint family and, yes, those comical terracotta figurines, Chia Pets, do sprout chia hair or fur.

Packed full of fiber, kale offers cholesterol-lowering benefits, cancer risk-lowering benefits and also it helps the body detoxify. This green leafy vegetables can be grown in Florida and is in fact grown by the 40-acre Tomazin Farms in New Smyrna Beach. The farm also grows broccoli, cabbage, carrots and other vegetables.

"Hearty greens like kale and mustard greens are loaded with vitamins and essential nutrients," said Michael Sterner, chef/owner of The Local Chef, located in Orlando. The Local Chef offers services like catering, cooking, cooking lessons, consulting and more. Sterner, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and member of the American Culinary Federation, explained that chefs are using the leafy greens in new and innovative ways that do not deter from the benefits that the they naturally have. Kale can be sautéed, turned into salad, soup or chips, or even juiced.

Quinoa, an ancient grain of the Incas, is nutrient-rich and offers a surprisingly high protein content. Most of the quinoa that is consumed in the United States comes from South America, with Peru being the largest producer. Thanks to the popularity, many predict that we will see more growers in the higher elevations regions of the United States, such as the Rocky Mountains. Last year was "The International Year of the Quinoa," a title declared by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

"Quinoa is a great protein for vegetarians, it is very easy to cook, and it pairs well with so many different flavors," added Sterner, whose classical and nutritional training, along with over 14 years of experience, has helped make him versatile in cuisines and techniques from all around the world.

Not surprisingly, salmon also made the food trends list. Salmon has a high omega-3 fatty acid content. Salmon is also high in vitamins like B12, B6, B3 and vitamin D. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), salmon is so popular that nearly two pounds of salmon per person was consumed in 2011. Commercial fisheries from Alaska to California, along with fish farms in Maine and Washington State, keep us stocked, as do farmed imports from Norway, Chile, and Canada - which actually comprise two-thirds of the salmon we eat.

The food trends for 2014 also include buying local foods and what is referred to as "clean eating." Clean eating simply means consuming minimally processed foods and focusing instead on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, like cauliflower, a popular choice in this year's food trends. Cauliflower, a good source of vitamin C and folate, is produced on a small scale in Florida, mainly in West Central.

"Keep your food simple and use the best quality ingredients available," said Sterner, who explained that local farms and purveyors are able to grow better quality ingredients, and therefore, consumers and chefs are able to get fresher products, which not only adds to the taste, but also helps preserve nutrients.

Thanks to the many local farmers, growers and ranchers, with their roadside stands and farm markets, it's not hard to find fresh in Florida.

For more information:

The Local Chef LLC

11838 Nautica Drive

Orlando Fl, 32827