Food Trends – Vegetable Forward

2017 will see an embrace of a plant-based diet

There is a movement afoot. The year 2017 will mark a fundamental shift in people’s habits towards a plant-based way of eating. Not confined to the traditional vegetarian and vegan diets, this movement will be guided by healthful lifestyles, ethical choices, and sustainability.

The birth of the flexitarian diet came about several years ago, but still carried the connotation of a rule-based diet and often a title that preceded the eater. Moving away from fad diets and restrictions, people are more than ever enamored with humble produce. From a love affair with ugly fruits and vegetables that used to go to waste, to the rise of award-winning vegetable-forward restaurants, there is momentum behind the prominent rise of vegetables to the centre of the plate.

The trend of showcasing vegetables, like so many others, started with fine dining. L’Arpege, a Parisian restaurant under Chef Alain Passard, famously took meat off their Michelin-starred menu in the early 2000’s. The abrupt move was met with many front page scathing predictions of failure, however, Passard is now considered a trailblazer. Chefs around the world are installing gardens nearby or even on top of their restaurants to vertically integrate their supply chain and have the freshest produce possible. Farm to table is clearly no longer focussed squarely on snout to tail.

The trend of bringing vegetables into focus is making its way to the supermarket in traditional and untraditional forms. We’re all familiar with cold-pressed juicing that favours green and red veggies, but cold vegetable soups bottled like water will make an appearance in 2017. Vegetable yogurts featuring carrot, beets, and sweet potato are an unexpected but delicious way to get your veggies with protein, vitamin D and calcium all in one.

Uncharted vegetable frontiers will also be explored. Many varieties of sea vegetables hand-harvested on PEI will be ours to discover in dried, fresh, and pickled formats. While 2016 was the Year of the Pulse, we will see pulse-based bakery items, snacks, and cereals in 2017.

Locally, we can see the shift happening on menus and online. With CSA (community supported agriculture) offerings on the rise, Islanders can sign up for weekly boxes of organic vegetables. Formerly, for those dining out, some of the best vegetable-focused meal options were found on the menus of Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese restaurants including Pho Hung and Splendid Essence in Charlottetown. Now, restaurants such as HopYard and Local 343 are getting in on the vegetable action with menu items such as tempura cauliflower florets and vegetable tagine, respectively. Of course, your best bet is to head to your local farmers market. In Charlottetown, market-goers are spoiled for veg-friendly lunch options such as the large combo plate from Out of Africa, and out-of-this-world veggie sandwich from The Hearth.

Next time you’re grocery shopping, challenge your conventional list and pick up a few extra veggies. During the winter, you can purchase local mainstays such as carrots, turnip, potatoes and cabbage, though our innovative farmers are also churning out greenhouse goodies and winter greens as well. Remember, having a vegetable focus is not a restrictive diet, it’s more of a lifestyle. You’ll be helping your own body, the environment and our local farmers. As an added bonus, you might just discover you love Brussels sprouts!