Tesco shoppers create soaring demand for exotic vegetables

Not so long ago they were still considered exotic vegetables that could only be bought in a handful of stores and market stalls dotted around the UK.

But now the likes of the dudhi, chayote, cassava, and other vegetables from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean are becoming mainstream with demand rocketing at Tesco stores across the UK.

And their popularity is not restricted to major inner city stores either with sales soaring in wider towns across the country.

Among the most popular in the last 12 months are:
> Sivri chillies – up by nearly 500% - from Turkey – the long, green medium-heat chillis that are commonly found in take-away kebabs.
> Purple sweet potatoes – up by nearly 125% - originally from Japan but now grown in North America – Richer tasting member of the sweet potato family
> Chayote – up by nearly 80% - from Latin America – similar in taste to a courgette with pale green, cucumber like flesh. Popular as a side dish when mixed with potato to create a chayote squash.
> Fresh turmeric – up by 80% - from the Indian Sub-Continent – The root vegetable which has a mild, peppery flavour has become extremely popular as a key ingredient in healthy smoothies, curries and soups.
> Plantains – up by more than 60% - from the Caribbean – Looks like a large banana but less sweet and is used like a potato in Caribbean cooking. Delicious added to stews or casseroles, grilled or baked.
> Cassava – up by more than 40% - from South America – A root vegetable with an earthy, nutty, and slightly sweet taste that can be boiled and mashed to be eaten as a tasty side dish.
> Dudhi – demand up by 25% - from Asia – Similar to a courgette and great in stir-fries, added to curry dishes, or tossed into salads.
> Okra – up by 24%- from Africa and Asia – Delicious chopped and added to a curry, with vegetables or meat.

Tesco exotic vegetable buyer, Katie Frost said, “These wonderful exotic fruit and vegetable varieties may be new to some shoppers but are a mainstay of Caribbean, Asian and African cuisine.

“Demand for them is soaring as a direct result of a new adventurism and passion that is sweeping through home cooking, inspired by celebrity chef TV food shows.

“Programmes such as Rick Stein’s India and recipes by other celebrity chefs such as The Hairy Bikers and Jamie Oliver have inspired people who love cooking to try new ingredients.”

Chef Derek Sarno, Tesco’s Director of Plant-Based Innovation said that the vegan food revolution has also created a spirit of adventurism, with more shoppers prepared to try out new vegetables. He said, “Being easily able to find these world fruit and vegetables in local supermarkets has helped drive demand.

“These days more and more shoppers are picking up plantains, fresh turmeric or purple sweet potatoes with their carrots or broccoli.”