Originally printed in the January 2022 issue of Produce Business.
New Covent Garden Market, where over 100 wholesale traders supply fresh fruit and vegetables to some of London’s top eateries, has predicted Asian Wok Cucumbers, Celtuce, foraged sea vegetables and Crabapples as some of the hottest on-trend ingredients coming to kitchens in 2022. Meanwhile, potatoes are enjoying a moment with new varieties on the scene and potato milk hitting the shelves, as the overarching macro trend for British grown fruit and vegetables continues to dominate.
The market’s annual Fruit and Vegetable Trends Report 2022 is based on qualitative insights from its expert wholesaler traders. They collectively supply around half of all of the fresh produce eaten out of home in London. Akin to sommeliers of the fruit and vegetable world, the market’s traders work closely with head chefs and catering teams to provide consultancy on the freshest and tastiest produce at any given moment, as well as new, interesting and on-trend eats.
Top on-trend veg for 2022 is hot cooked cucumber, Asian arrival Celtuce, Crabapples and foraged sea vegetables on the menu.
1. Cucumbers but not as we know them: According to S.Thorogood and Sons, a New Covent Garden Market based wholesaler, summer 2022 will be all about cucumbers. Asian Wok Cucumbers are being grown in the UK for the first time at The Caffarelli family farm in Cambridgeshire, and the farm will be supplying S.Thorogood exclusively with this new variety. Unlike traditional cucumbers, Asian Wok Cucumbers are used in hot dishes to add extra crunch and juiciness. Furthermore, English cucumbers with an Italian flavour will also be introduced to chefs via New Covent Garden Market, and micro snack cucumbers are another variety set to take centre stage.
2. Asian import Celtuce, grown in the UK for the first time: Commenting on another vegetable that’s newly being grown in the UK, Liam Kelly from County Supplies tells how Celtuce is one to watch. He said: “Celtuce is a stem lettuce that’s popular in both mainland China and Taiwan. It has a strong taste and a similar texture to iceberg lettuce, and it’s newly being grown in small volumes in the UK. Currently it is mainly imported from Spain and France, but chefs are increasingly incorporating it into their menus looking to offer something genuinely new and different.” Meanwhile some other Asian produce has become less available, with Vernon Mascarenhas of Nature’s Choice commenting: “Things like Snake Beans and a lot of the popular Chinese vegetables like Bok Choy and Choy Sum are a good example; you just struggle get them in the UK anymore.”
3. British grown innovation: Popularity of British-grown fruit and vegetables continues to boom in commercial kitchens and beyond, and in turn it’s putting pressure on growers to innovate. Liam Kelly from County Supplies explained: “Smaller British growers are increasingly sought after. There is a focus amongst our customers on being super-seasonal, but essentially there’s not enough homegrown crops to cater for the demand. If something is British, it is that bit more attractive. It is linked to a desire to create menus that are eco-friendly, sustainable and biodynamic”.
4. Foraging takes to the seaside: With demand for British produce higher than ever, some have taken to wild sea and beach foraging as a way to create totally unique menus. Stan Gulas of Oui Chef has noticed how sea vegetables, such as Sea Beet and Sea Purslane, are piquing particular interest among chefs. Native to shingle beaches, cliffs, sea walls and saltmarshes, Sea Beet’s dark green leaves can be cooked similarly to spinach or chard and have a rich, succulent flavour with a salty tang. Meanwhile, Sea Purslane is a small prostrate herb with succulent, salty leaves. Gulas also mentions the booming popularity of crab apples, which while previously often disregarded due to their sour flavour profile, have seen a renaissance with chefs using this foraged fruit for jams and jellies.
5. Spuds in the spotlight: Weird and wonderful new varieties of fruit and vegetables are emerging in Britain, but the humble potato is also having a moment. According to Jenny Irvine from Pure Package, a healthy recipe box delivery company based on the market, potato milk is on the rise as a more sustainable plant-based alternative to dairy milk. Potato farming produces considerably less CO2 than dairy farming and uses half the land required for the same amount of oat milk. It is being fortified with Vitamin D, calcium, and folic acid, and Pure Package is already selling potato milk in three styles: original, barista, and unsweetened. Meanwhile, there’s a new potato on the block, South American Olluco. Widely cultivated and consumed in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, and Chile, it’s a predecessor to the potato Christopher Columbus first brought to British shores.
6. Gut health reigns supreme: Gut health is one of THE top trends to watch, and 2022 is the year that it will gain even more momentum. Jenny Irvine at Pure Package said: “The general public is becoming increasingly knowledgeable about how vital it is to maintain a healthy gut, and this in turn has led to a surge in gut-boosting foods. It’s been well documented that consuming 30 plus plant foods in a week is linked to optimal gut-health and digestion, which has seen health-conscious consumers upping their intake of fresh produce.” Meanwhile Stan Gulas at Oui Chef has seen an increase in chefs incorporating gut-friendly miso and sauerkraut in their menus.
With a myriad of factors affecting the fresh produce trends for 2022, the prospect of adapting to the availability of certain fruits and vegetables makes it an exciting time to be a home cook or chef, as British growers pull out all the stops to supply New Covent Garden Market with some of the very best produce.
The New Covent Garden Market is London’s original produce market. Its 175 small and medium-sized businesses employ over 2,500 people. The market sees tonnes of exceptional quality produce pass through the site each night, finally finding its way onto the plates of diners in some of the capital’s top caterers. Tommy Leighton is its Communications & Marketing Consultant.