Hidden opportunities in the unique produce that panic shoppers leave behind

This World Health Day, Food Forever is working from home.

In the whirlwind of the last several months, the global pandemic COVID-19 has altered the way many of us run our lives as we trade trousers for sweatpants, staff meetings for video conferences guest-starring our pets. And like many other foodies we know, instead of our actual work, we’re busy looking for artisan bread recipes or anxious cooking with whatever we can drag home from the neighborhood market.

For many, extra pet time and sweatpants are a welcome change. But there have been a number of areas where we’ve had to adjust to unwelcome new normals, like in our grocery stores. We’ve likely all felt the frustration of fighting our way to empty flour shelves, pasta sections or produce aisles. Panic buying has made the foods we know and love much harder to access.

The unfortunate truth is that not everyone can work from home or rush to the supermarket before everything is gone. When doctors, nurses and grocery clerks clock out, what is left but a handful of unfamiliar fruits and vegetables?

This World Health Day, we at Food Forever would like to help in whatever way we can. We’re sharing this short list as a thank you to the health service workers and essential employees working hard to save lives and ensure everyone has what they need in these uncertain times. For all the hours you spend away from home, we hope these suggestions help you and your families stay healthy when your favorite pantry staples have already flown off the shelves.

Swapping familiar ingredients with something new can be intimidating. But we also believe it can be exciting – and delicious. Most of us spend our meals rotating through variations of the same staple foods – pastas, rice, greens, the like. But after the rush, there’s a diverse world of unique, delicious and nutritious food just waiting for your creativity and attention.

Here are three ways you can find hidden gems among all the empty shelves:

Learn to love the lentil

Many probably push lentils to the side as they reach for household staples such as peas or canned beans. But in many of the world’s dry areas, cooks have been loving the lentil for centuries. Lentils are an ancient and incredibly diverse pulse vegetable. Some varieties are yellow or orange and sweet, while others might be green or black and peppery. They’re also incredibly nutritious – high in vitamins and potassium and with a seed protein content of about 25%.

At our Food Forever Experience in London, Manchester United consulting chef Anjula Devi showed us the beauty of the lentil. For inspiration, check out Chef Anjula’s World Pulses Day tribute to the lentil here.

De-mystify the salsify

When all the carrots or parsnips have disappeared from the produce aisle, you might find a smaller, probably earth-brown alternative: salsify. An under-appreciated cousin of the parsnip, salsify is known as the “oyster plant” due to its unique savory flavor when cooked. As with most root vegetables, salsify can be boiled, mashed or used in soups and stews for a healthy, flavorful twist.

Chef JB Dubois has fond childhood memories of salsify in his school canteen in France. At our Food Forever Experience in London, he showed us how to make a lovely hummus that you can try at home.

Do you know your beans?

A can of beans is an ideal side dish.  We all know the usual varieties – like black, kidney and pinto – but these only scratch the surface. There are in fact over 40,000 varieties of beans. While most probably wouldn’t make a great addition to your favorite burrito recipe or casserole, there’s no need to shy away from some of the more unfamiliar varieties you would find hiding behind the usual suspects in the canned vegetable aisle.

For example, you might find a batch of tepary beans, native to the southwestern United States, that are considered one of the most adapted arid crops in the world. Grab a can and substitute them into our curried bean ragout recipe.


If you like the sound of spicing up your dinner plates with more diverse ingredients, you’re in good company. For more ideas and more recipes, explore our website and follow us on our social media channels.

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