I’ve blogged about specialty crops in the past. The fact is, “specialty crop” is a loose term that can be applied to just about anything that isn’t a major commodity. These “major commodities” tend to include corn, soy beans, wheat, rice, and cotton. I was rereading some older posts today and realized I never revisited that conversation about specialty crops. Well, I’ve decided to do so, in the form of a list. Here are some specialty crops that I simply cannot live without:
5.) Sweet potatoes. Not to be confused with yams, sweet potatoes are one of my favorite veggie-starch-root-things. Bake ’em, put ’em in a pie, cut them into fries, use them in a casserole…whatever the case, I’m usually pretty thrilled that sweet potatoes are a part of my life (especially if there are marshmallows involved). According to WHFoods.com, sweet potatoes are remarkably high in Vitamin A, which is an antioxidant. They’re also rich in Vitamin C for strong immune systems and plenty of valuable minerals.
4.) Herbs. Not only do these make my culinary life more interesting, but they impact my life in a more serious way. My mother and stepfather both work for one of the largest herb growers and processors in the western hemisphere. While my taste buds would be heartbroken if there were no demand for herbs, my life would be drastically different without them! Herbs aren’t just tasty…they can also serve as additional sources of nutrients. Granted, the amounts are relatively small, but every beneficial bit helps. Plus, herbs can help minimize the use of sodium-based seasonings, which is good for blood pressure. (Besides, a world without pesto pasta sauce is not a world I want to live in.)
3.) Rabbits. I know these aren’t technically a “crop” but they can be “harvested” and can be considered a crop in that sense. For five years, I raised rabbits. The meat became one of my favorite entrees. It’s lean, fiber-rich, easy to incorporate into all skill levels of cooking, and versatile. While I hardly eat rabbit meat anymore, I’m still glad that I have pretty easy access to it.
2.) Nuts. I have a friend in California whose farm I intend to visit this summer during my west coast adventures. His name is Brent and he raises almonds. His website can be found here. Thanks to Brent, I have a better understanding for the work and the dedication that goes into raising these delicacies. Much like herbs, they’re an unsung hero of the culinary world. Nuts are rich in essential fatty acids, generally omega-3 and omega-6 and contain protein and other vital nutrients. In a nutshell (haha, get it?) they’re a great addition to a healthy diet and a must-have for some really tasty dishes.
1.) Popcorn. I’m a poor, time-crunched college student. Sometimes, the concept of a sit-down meal is hard for me to fathom. At some points it’s downright impossible to make time. I’ve found that one of my old fall-backs, time and time again, has become popcorn. It’s one of those quick, easy-to-transport, reliable, low-fat food sources that every college kid appreciates. If I had a dime for every time my breakfast, lunch, or supper consisted of popcorn…well, college would be paid for. I have to point out that not all popcorn is created equal. Flavored popcorns, heavily-salted popcorns, and the super-extra-extremely-buttery popcorns can actually be pretty bad for you. (I still enjoy them, though…) HOWEVER, popcorn as a whole has served me very well. Want to learn more about popcorn production? Check out my friend Zach Hunnicutt on Twitter, here. Zach and his family raise corn, soybeans, and popcorn in central Nebraska.
There it is. My top list of specialty crops that I could not live without. I could have gone on forever; there are food and fiber crops raised all over the world that we don’t take proper time to appreciate. I’m sure I could have some up with a much more creative list, full of detailed descriptions of obscure, unheard-of crops. However, these are the ones that hit home for me. They’re the ones I find myself taking for granted.
What are some specialty crops you find yourself grateful for? What’s that obscure food ingredient that comes to mind? Share your feedback! We’ve all got our specialty crop favorites.