In a recent poll of market traders, healthy eating was voted as the number one trend boosting their sales. If you travel across London, it’s not hard to see why. High-end juice bars. Vegan and raw diets. A craze for “clean eating” (whatever that means). All generate valuable extra orders on the market.
And it’s not just curly kale and avocados. Traders are sourcing and selling new product lines in response to this demand. A recent trip to Buyer’s Walk revealed a surprising range of health-conscious ingredients, from galangal to quinoa. Which other lines are hot to trot?
“Turmeric sales have really jumped up in the last six months – from 5 to 40 boxes a week,” says Andrew Gibbons at Worldwide Exotics. Most of us know turmeric as a dried spice: the yellow powder often listed in curry recipes. But the fresh root is in vogue - packed with antioxidants and renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Fresh turmeric can be blended into fruit juices and smoothies, such as the “Citrus” cold-pressed juice served at Dean Street Townhouse, which stars grapefruit, orange, lemon and cayenne pepper.
But chefs such as Yotam Ottolenghi are pushing recipes such as pickled baby turnip with fresh turmeric and orange or adding the root to a Malaysian fish and pineapple curry.
To prepare the root, wash off any dirt then either grate, bash or slice. It’s not essential to peel the turmeric first. Store any leftover root in the fridge or freezer. Fresh turmeric is available from Gilgrove and Worldwide Exotics.
This on-trend ingredient is a relatively recent introduction to the UK. The black cloves are increasingly used by chefs to add a depth of flavour and umami dimension to dishes such as ragus, risottos and vinaigrettes.
"It's like a flavour explosion in the mouth," explains Katy Heath, founder of Balsajo. "It has so many layers, textures and flavours. It works as a flavour enhancer but also an ingredient in its own right."
Black garlic offers many of the health benefits of fresh garlic but without the pungent aroma. It also has a sweeter flavour – which makes it more consumer friendly. (My kids eat the cloves like sweets).
Several wholesalers offer black garlic on the market. European Salad Company sells the Balsajo product line, while First Choice Produce is first port of call for products from South West Garlic Farm – the focus for one of our Grower Profiles.
“People are blitzing them into drinks,” explains Damian Fowler at Gilgrove, who sells a wide range. Almond and hazelnut milks are replacing cow’s milk in some coffee shops. At The Fields Beneath in Kentish Town they are ditching dairy altogether and going fully vegan.
Nuts are also an excellent ingredient for thickening up juices and smoothies. High-street superfood specialists Crussh, for example, has perfected a “Vanilla nut mylk” with cashews, dates, vanilla, Himalayan pink salt, cinnamon and water.
Many companies on the market sell punnets of microgreens: tiny seedlings of plants such as rocket, dill, shiso, coriander and tarragon. Grown fast and harvested in their infancy, they are packed with flavour. But it is their health benefits that are becoming more widely appreciated.
Market leader Koppert Cress is devoting much of their energy to explaining these powerful health benefits. Founder Rob Baan describes his range of microgreens as a “green pharmacy” and cites his BroccoCress as an example: a single seedling boasts the equivalent amount of sulforaphane, an "anti-cancer" compound, as a whole head of broccoli. For more info, see our Grower Profile on Koppert Cress.
You won’t have missed the trend for coconut water, which is packaged up by a myriad of brands. A wide range of wholesalers sell fresh coconuts – either still in the husk or trimmed and ready to go. These offer the advantage of including the coconut flesh, which is full of healthy fats.
This flesh can be scraped out and used in a wide range of recipes. These include cocktails, ice creams, puddings and whizzing into smoothies. At Planet Organic they sell the Coconut Blue drink, which mixes coconut meat, coconut water, banana and blueberries. Fresh coconuts are available from traders such as Gilgrove, Premier Fruits and Worldwide Exotics.