Welcome to 2016, which we’re calling the Year of the Vegetable. If you love eating vegetables, this is your lucky year. And if you (or someone in your family) doesn’t like eating vegetables, this year is going to be the year everything changes…We’re sure of it.
“Plants are the new meat,” declares NPR, as it predicts that “Vegetables Likely To Take More Of Your Plate in 2016.” NPR highlights restaurants such as AL’s Place in San Francisco (where vegetables take center stage and meats are listed as side dishes) and Sweetgreen restaurants that feature the WastED salad (which make use of the restaurants scraps – broccoli leaves, carrot ribbons, roasted kale stems, romaine hearts, roasted cabbage cores, roasted broccoli stalks and roasted bread butts all mixed with arugula, Parmesan, spicy sunflower seeds and pesto vinaigrette) as evidence that veggies are leading the charge into 2016.
Food trend experts Baum+Whiteman also report that this year’s restaurant trends include pasta being replaced by spiralized vegetables, as well as a move toward “root to stem” dining, which is the logical extension of “nose to tail” but in this case it’s about using every single part of the vegetable.
Then there’s US News and World Report (by way of Huffington Post), which reports that vegetables are finally getting their time in the spotlight, and there’s all sorts of ways to eat them if you need something new. Pickle them! Spiralize them! Make them into burgers! Make them into steaks! You get the idea.
On another front, the Food Network kitchen team has declared 2016 “the year of the plants.” Worth noting: They also predict that pint-sized cooks will be a top food trend, as kids who were raised on cooking shows start taking over the kitchen.
The Specialty Food Association also says that vegetables “are set to soar,” with vegetables cropping up more in places like teas, yogurt, and ice cream. Seaweed will be an especially hot item this year, according to the association.
And on the international front, the United Nations has even gotten into the action, naming 2016 the International Year of Pulses (pulses meaning legumes such as chick peas, beans, and lentils). When the United Nations gets involved, this is serious, people!
So what does the Year of the Vegetable mean to you? Try these ideas for getting more veggies into your daily routine:
Serve veggies at every meal: Dinner? Of course. Lunch? Sure. And breakfast? Absolutely! In fact, the very first thing we ate in 2016 was – wait for it – broccoli! Yep, we had Chinese lo mein noodles and veggies for breakfast on New Year’s Day, and we made a point of eating a piece of broccoli first so we could say we’d started off the new year right.
Vary your veggies: Who says you have to stick with carrots and celery? Our friends at Melissa’s Produce tell us that okra and Brussels sprouts are among the top produce trends of the year (OK, technically okra is a fruit, but work with us here). Get yourself out of the usual rut and bring something different to the table – like, say, purple peppers.
Cut them differently: Yes, of course you should spiralize – that’ll automatically get you more veggies with every meal. But also consider breaking out of the rut with how you usually serve veggies. Do you usually make carrot sticks? Slice them into rounds and add more to soups or salads. Grate your zucchini into baked goods. Make pesto out of every single leafy green in your refrigerator (spinach, arugula, kale, dandelion greens, etc.) – our kids are more likely to eat leafy greens when they’re ground into tiny, tiny pieces. And use those sturdy lettuce or kale leaves for wraps whenever you get a chance.
Pickle them: If you’re more likely to eat your veggies when they’re soaked in a salty brine, go for it. You can pickle just about anything (Cue Portlandia: “We can pickle that!”) and pickled veggies make for an easy grab-and-go snack. Want to go another step further? Try fermenting them – another one of the top 2016 food trends.
Juice them: Of course you want to make eating veggies part of your regular routine, but if you’re not getting enough, juice ’em up! This has the added benefit of eliminating food waste because when you juice, you’re more likely to use every last veggie (and all the parts of the veggie) from your fridge.
Use them for color every day: Don’t let your tomato sauce have only tomatoes; dress it up with peppers, onions, and greens. Don’t let your sandwich have only meat and bread; dress it up with tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, cucumbers, peppers, and more. Don’t let your pizza only have pepperoni; top it with onions, peppers, and mushrooms. Don’t let your cornbread and savory baked goods go naked; color them with chopped veggies and greens. You get the idea – when there’s a meal, there’s a veggie.
How will you celebrate the Year of the Vegetable?