NEW YORK CITY -- Color and convenience were prevailing themes at the recent New York Produce Show and Conference in the Javits Center here. Karen Caplan, daughter of produce pioneer Frieda Caplan, spoke at a luncheon about Frieda’s unusual “scary” fruits including horned melons and dragonfruits. The company also is proud of its all-purple produce; there are Stoke’s purple sweet potatoes, purple cauliflower, purple baby artichokes, purple snow peas and even purple asparagus.
Other produce companies had carrots -- babies and big ones -- in all colors: purple, pink, white and, of course, yellow. Interesting fact: Carrots originally were purple, not orange. Later, they were bred by the Dutch to be the orange-hued root we know well today.
Also charming and colorful were baby orange, white and green Romanesco cauliflowers, nestled in a box, surrounded by purple leaves. Then there were some oversized fruits: Italian pears, Florida avocados and huge pomegranates. But what caught my attention most were the value-added vegetable mixtures.
I especially liked the roasting vegetable mixtures. These are such time-savers for busy families, single diners or older folks who don't want to spend time dicing up hard-to-cut veggies such as winter squash, or who only want to prepare a small amount. These mixtures were cut up and washed, packed with herb branches, and ready to pop in the oven, maybe with a spritz of olive oil. From Renaissance Food Group, they're called Chef Essentials and are available at area Giant Eagles. Packages weigh between 10 and 14 ounces, serve two to three as a side dish and cost about $4 each. Mixtures included Roasting Vegetables (butternut squash, carrots, zucchini and red onion), Roasting Root Vegetables (turnips, rutabagas and sweet potatoes) and Roasting Red Potatoes (red potatoes with scallions and garlic).
Also convenient for juice enthusiasts were vegetable mixtures, prepped and ready for the blender or juicer from Harvest Sensations. Choose from Spinach Splash, Lemon Ginger Twist and Kale Blast. The packages weigh 12 ounces each and make two juice servings. Just add yogurt or almond milk to make a smoothie.
Other vegetable mixtures not yet in area stores come from Lucinda’s Specialty Produce. There are red and green salsa mixes with chiles, limes, garlic, herbs and either tomatillos or red Roma tomatoes, and Pesto Mix with basil, pine nuts and garlic. My favorite was a Latin Soup Kit, containing peppers, red onion, chayote, cilantro and an ear of corn. Each product retails fro about $5.
Best moment at the show: As I walked by a stand, I heard a man say “Pittsburgh” in a Scottish brogue. I stopped to chat. Seems the Albert Bartlett Co., a family-run Scottish business, is now selling U.S.-grown Rooster potatoes in our area supermarkets. Roosters are an Irish spud, beloved in the United Kingdom, with pinky-red skin and yellow flesh. They can be baked, roasted, boiled or mashed and retail for about $4.50 for 4.4 pounds. It wasn’t the only tater at the show, of course; there were plenty of other baby red, white and yellow potatoes and fingerlings, some already seasoned and ready to pop in the oven or microwave.
A couple of cool things happened: I had a microgreen tasting of red and green shiso leaves, borage leaves (cucumbery), garlic shoots, popcorn shoots (no bueno), apple blossoms (sour), tahoom (a Himalayan shoot that tasted like roasted rice and peanut butter), and Szechwan buttons, which sparked little explosions on my tongue and I wish I hadn’t tried. Lastly and coolest, I now have a real yam given to me by a Latin produce company whose name I didn’t get. Couldn’t wait to get it home. Called a name (accent on the e), it tastes, they said, a little like a sweet potato.
Miriam Rubin: email@example.com and on Twitter @mmmrubin.