It’s well-established by now, with the popularity of Cronuts, ramen burgers and other mash-ups, that hybrid food is a serious culinary trend. And now it’s catching on to the fruit and vegetable aisle.
Not that hybrid fruits and vegetables are anything new – just look at broccolini, a mix of broccoli and kai-lan – but it takes up to 15 years and tons of research to develop a new non-genetically modified strain of fruit or vegetable, so it’s much fewer and farther between.
Right now though, the produce world is about to explode with two new, exciting (and non-GMO!) additions bursting onto the scene.
Witch Finger and Cotton Candy Grapes
These new grapes sound more like something out of a Willy Wonka movie than real life – except they are.
Developed by Grapery, a California farming company, witch finger grapes are a skinny oblong red grape, and cotton candy grapes look like typical green grapes, but taste and smell like the favorite fair treat.
Grapery’s breeder, Dr. David Cein, took grapes that naturally have oblong shapes but bred them with better tasting grapes to create a commercially viable product. Same for grapes that naturally taste like cotton candy, but may have seeds or bitter skins.
“The native species tend to have seeds or bitter skins and all kinds of issues that make them not viable for consumers,” Grapery CEO Jim Beagle told ABC News. “So the breeder took parent material to cross those with grapes that were seedless and had better flavor into a grape that would be better for consumers.”
Despite only being introduced last year, witch finger and cotton candy grapes have already making their way to the popular crowd, appearing on the main course of this year’s Emmy’s Governors Ball.
“I saw them last year and I loved them,” Governors Ball and Patina Catering executive chef Alec Lestr told ABC News. “Grapes are in season now, but I’ve never used them for the Emmys in the 19 years we’ve done it. This year I said, ‘I’m doing filet mignon with grapes, so what are the coolest grapes I can get?’ And that’s how that came about.”
The dish proved extra-popular, garnering tons of positive feedback and, most importantly, empty plates.
“We got great response from the dish,” he said. “For me, the tell is that the plates would come back with no food on them.”
To try witch finger and cotton candy grapes, make the Emmys dish yourself with this recipe:
Artisan Grape-Topped Filet Mignon: Click here for the recipe.
Kaleheads, get ready for this one: starting this September, you’ll be able to buy kalettes, a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts.
“You can eat them raw or cooked, so similar to kale. The leaves are like miniature kale leaves, but more tender without the thick stem in the middle,” Kalettes spokeswoman Lisa Friedrich told ABC News. “Then they have hard centers with more of the Brussels sprouts flavor with that nuttiness and sweet flavor.”
Friedrich said the direct mix of the soft and hard textures make them ideal for both raw and cooked preparations, like salads, roasting, grilling and more.
Kalettes come at a time when the market could not be any more ready for them – kale and Brussels sprouts are on the menu at practically every trendy restaurant across the country, with some people growing ready for something new to take their place.
“Nobody had any idea kale was going to be as wildly popular as it is now when they started doing it. Tozer Seeds, who produces kalettes, is in the United Kingdom, and they have scientists working on ‘Blue Sky’ projects where they can just work on something they find interesting,” Friedrich said. “They started crossing kale and Brussels sprouts about 15 years ago and so it’s come to fruition at a really great time as far as popularity of both vegetables.”
The plant has been available in the UK since 2010, and the company has been working to bring them to this US market since then.
“Different growers have been trialing it and figuring out how to get it to grow in this climate and fine tune the growing process,” Friedrich said. “It’s pretty exciting to have a brand new vegetable. Just the fact that we’re adding one more vegetable to the toolkit of what chefs can offer and what home cooks can use to serve their family and friends is pretty exciting.”
Kalettes are set to hit Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s this September. Get ready for their arrival with these recipes:
Orange Kalette Salad: Click here for the recipe.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Kalettes: Click here for the recipe.