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Flavor Trend: Cooking with Unripe Fruit

Flavor Trend: Cooking with Unripe Fruit

In another life, my inability to determine the ripeness of fruit may have been detrimental. But in a time when invention never seems to stop, I dare say this so-called “flaw” of mine is nothing more than a passageway into flavors untold. 

All poetics aside, the recent months spent in my kitchen have been filled with experiments and taste testings. As to whether those experiments were successful—you’ll have to ask my fur children. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by one implementation that turns my broken ripe-omoter on its head: cooking with immature fruit.

Though the trend has long been put into practice across various eating experiences, getting crafty in the kitchen with unripened fruit has gained significant ground in recent years and can be tapped across multiple buy-side platforms. But, I had to ask myself, why eat something before it has reached its fullest potential? Then again, how does one define such potential?

And poof! I had a culinary epiphany. Rather than defining a cultivar by its expectations, we have the capability to invent its definition by the way we bring it to the plate. In the traditional sense of ripeness, fruit fanatics like myself are searching for a succulent, sweet profile. But that is only one end of the spectrum.

In utilizing unripened fresh fruit in the kitchen, chefs are highlighting a firmer texture and milder flavor which is not typically associated with some categories. Take the strawberry, for example—well-known for its luscious red juice and seasonal applications. When plucked prematurely, these beloved berries sport a pale green color, and their firm texture and fresh flavor can be used in a wide array of savory recipes.

It doesn’t stop there, though, as fruits from papayas to plantains to plums can present different taste and texture profiles depending on when they are harvested. Interestingly enough, many of the characteristics taken on by fruit in the early stages of its life are more closely aligned with popular vegetables like cucumber and zucchini. 

In utilizing unripened fresh fruit in the kitchen, chefs are highlighting a firmer texture and milder flavor which is not typically associated with some categories.

Buyers—you can think of this as an untapped opportunity for driving up fresh produce purchasing and mitigating food waste. Not only should foodservice operators consider adding immature fruit to their menus, but the concept could be a boon for cross-merchandising at retail as well. With time, the strategic promotion of this experience may even open up an all-new avenue for demand.

Regardless of where you set your own ripe-omoter in the kitchen or on the shelf, it is worth considering how we can diversify the plate through unexpected fresh produce applications. We do produce some of the greatest food in the world, after all!