Squeeze On Quinoa Supply?

February 28th, 2011

Quinoa in Bolivia

We’ve already touched on the surge in demand for quinoa as people, particularly in the west, become educated on the fantastic properties of this tiny seed (yes, technically quinoa is a seed, but it is often referred to as a grain!). It would be fair to say that quinoa is fast becoming a hit in North America as it lands on the shelves of mainstream grocers.

However, times aren’t so great for the world’s main exporter of quinoa. In Bolivia, drought and late freezes have halved output this year. We’ll be following up on this to see if and when it may affect wholesale prices. We source quinoa for food manufacturers from both Bolivia and Peru to help ensure a decent supply of this amazing seed that can be used in a multitude of food applications.

Watch more on the problems in Bolivia from Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Creative Commons License photo credit: einalem

Dehydrated vs. Freeze Dried Fruit: What You Need To Know

February 3rd, 2011

Swell Dried Apples

Both freeze dried and dehydrated fruits are popular because it extends the life of fruit while allowing for all kinds of interesting applications that would simply not be possible with fresh fruit. However, freeze dried and dehydrated fruit are not created equal! While both start with fresh fruit, the process involved is very different. WiseGeek outlines the processes:

Dehydration involves putting the fruit in a warm environment which causes the water to be removed from the fruit over time. Traditionally this is done by laying cut fruit in the sun or on a warm surface. A more modern technique involves the use of equipment designed to remove the water from the fruit. Crucially no chemicals are added to the fruit nor is it necessary to add sugar. When you take the water out of fruits, the natural sugars become concentrated and the dried fruit will be sweeter than usual. Dehydrated fruits usually have a somewhat pliable texture.

Freeze drying is a more complicated procedure. First the fruit is frozen and put into a vacuum that will gradually extract the water content. Heat is applied such that the frozen fruit thaws quickly while the vacuum extracts the water. Freeze dried fruit retains the taste of fresh fruit but with a crispy texture.

Using unique procedures such as a swell drying process, Ingredient Hotline can provide crispy fruit that is not freeze dried, but instead completely natural: no added oil, acrylamide, fat, salt, sugar or other chemicals.  Contact us if you’d like to learn more about this unique product that allows for new and innovative applications using dried fruit.

School Lunches: Whole Grains, Fresh Fruits & Vegetables

January 23rd, 2011

The USDA has announced new guidelines for school lunches (in the USA). What could be more important than the food our children eat? In an era of soaring childhood obesity rates, we all have an interest in providing healthy meals for our children. According to ABC News, the new school lunch guidelines are based on an Institute of Medicine study:

…reduce saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Increase whole grains. Serve both fruits and vegetables daily. And, for the first time, set maximum calorie counts in addition to minimum ones.

More on the story:

A Mother’s Milk & A Seed From Peru

January 23rd, 2011

Quinoa consumption and production have exploded in recent years. The trend is reflected in search volume for Qunioa:

Quinoa Trend

According to Yahoo! News, Bolivia and Peru account for almost 97% of production. In Bolivia exports have risen from slightly over 1400 metric tons in 2000 to 14500 metric tons in 2009 with wholesale prices increasing 700% over the period. What is driving this huge demand? Quinoa is actually a seed, but not just any seed:

  • It provides 10 essential amino acids and is loaded with minerals.
  • It has a protein content between 14 and 18%.
  • It has been suggested that quinoa is the most perfect food for the human diet with the FAO (U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization) suggesting it can be substituted for mother’s milk – it is that nutritious.
  • Even though it’s a seed, it’s eaten like a grain. However, it is gluten-free and therefore more easily digestible.
  • It can be substituted for rice in almost any application.

The popularity of Quinoa is starting to impact the lives of those that produce it in South America. It is hoped that this new found demand will lift farmers out of poverty, with quinoa now considered a strategic crop in Bolivia, the world’s largest producer.

Read More:

    We Wish You A Merry Christmas

    December 24th, 2010

    Ingredient Hotline Christmas

    We’re about to check out and start enjoying the holiday with our family. Before we go we’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

    Tomato Seeds Vs. Aspirin Smack-Down

    December 16th, 2010

    cherry tomatoes

    Researchers have found that an extract based on the gelatin that surrounds tomato seeds may help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Aspirin has been a traditional weapon in the fight against heart disease, however, prolonged use can lead to the risk of ulcers and bleeding in the stomach. The tomato seed extract has been found to help thin the blood like aspirin, but without the unfortunate side effects.

    The extract has been under study by researchers at Aberdeen’s Rowett Institute. It’s called Fruitflow and is  manufactured by Provexis, company that has been spun off from the research institute. According to the Scotsman:

    The trial compared the effects of Fruitflow and aspirin over a seven-month period using 43 people…The study also showed no ill effects when Fruitflow and aspirin were taken together…The extract is said to begin to work immediately and its benefits are said to last for up to 18 hours.

    Read more: Tomato seeds promise new way to fight heart disease more safely

    Creative Commons License photo credit: Robynlou8

    Canadian Apple That Resists Browning

    November 30th, 2010

    NYC - Grand Central Terminal
    For anyone who has sliced up an apple knows, leave it on the plate for a few minutes, and it starts to brown. It looks a lot less appetizing. Maybe that’s about to change: Okanagan Specialty Fruits, a Canadian biotechnology firm based in Summerland, British Columbia has developed a genetically modified apple that resists browning after it is sliced or bruised. The benefits are obvious:

    • Producers can cut wastage from superficial bruising.
    • Fresh cut apple processors can eliminate treatments that prevent browning, reducing costs.

    According to company president Neal Carter:

    We think that there is value in this product all the way along the value chain — growers, packers and especially the food service industry, where people are putting fruit in bags and on buffet tables and in salads.

    Okanagan Specialty Fruits has asked the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency about bringing its apple to market. Carter says:

    The apples look exactly like what you’d expect – a Golden or Granny or Fuji – and it tastes like a normal apple. Their composition is, if anything, better or more nutritious, because as you’d expect, browning is a bad thing in an apple.

    Of course “genetically modified” is a dirty term with some people, so it will be interesting to gauge market acceptance if the apples are approved. In the mean time, if you don’t want your apple slices to brown at home, simply try adding a few drops of lemon juice. The acid in the lemon juice prevents the oxidation that causes the apple slices to brown.

    Read More:

    Vancouver Sun: B.C. firm develops apples that won’t turn brown when sliced

    Food Navigator-USA: B.C. firm develops apples that won’t turn brown when sliced

    Creative Commons License photo credit: r0sss

    Wines for the Top 10 Tough-To-Buy-For People on Your Holiday List

    November 26th, 2010

    Our favourite wine connoisseur, Natalie MacLean, has put together something a little unconventional and fun for your holiday wine shopping. Instead of pairing wine to food, she’s pairing wine to the people on your Christmas shopping list!

    Wine is one of the few presents that makes both the giver and the receiver look good, you look like you spent a bundle on the gift (even if you didn’t) and the recipients are happy that you think they know something about wine (even if they don’t).

    Natalie MacLean is the self described “e-sommelier” behind www.nataliemaclean.com, Canada’s largest wine web site. This holiday season, anyone can tap into MacLean’s expertise via her free web site and mobile apps for iPhone, BlackBerry, Droid and other smartphones. They help consumers with a whole new type of pairing: wine with the people on your Christmas shopping list. The app and site also pair wines to thousands of dishes, including holiday favourites, such as turkey, goose, duck, and even partridge in a pear tree.

    Here’s a sampling of Natalie’s Top Gift Wines for your …

    • Hairdresser: For the person who combines humour and optimism every time she styles your mop. Go for a light, gulpable wine like a dry rosé. It’s versatile and fuss-free—a great quaff for your coif.
    • Psychiatrist: Of course, he’ll analyze whatever you give him so choose a wine that’s all about balance. Easy-drinking pinot noir is medium-bodied yet packed with flavour. Surprise him with a large-format bottle, like a magnum. Big thinking means big progress for you. This wine also works for psychologists, marriage counsellors and bartenders.
    • The Boss: Pick too pricey a wine and your boss will think your last raise was too much; go cheap, and she’ll think you lack judgement. Focus on a label with a lot of white space since that makes the bottle look more expensive. A castle in the distance also works, but avoid fluffy animals.
    • Personal Trainer: Think a muscular, robust red would work? Hold that position. Instead, try riesling: this light white wine pairs well with a health-nut diet of salad and seafood, plus it’s low in alcohol. You can also give it to Pilates instructors, yoga masters and Tai Chi coaches.
    • Financial Planner: You and he both know it’s going to take decades before your portfolio recovers after the crash of 2008. With that long-term view, vintage port makes the perfect gift. This fortified wine from northern Portugal, with its long aging potential, will be around for both of you into your retirements.
    • Travel Agent: She’s been everywhere and seen everything, so go local with your choice of wine. Even better, if you live close to the winery, get the bottle signed by the winemaker.
    • Teacher: If you can’t find a suitably obscure wine with a Latin name, there’s always cream sherry. It’s the tipple of Oxford dons, not to mention the centerpiece of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story The Case of the Amontillado.
    • Mail Deliverer: Go for a winery that’s consistent year after year in producing a wine that can be enjoyed in snow, rain, sleet or hail. Try an Australian shiraz or Argentine malbec.
    • Mechanic: Yes, there’s a wine called Red Truck, but try to be more imaginative. Why not give a wine made by Mario Andretti in California or Ferrari in Italy?
    • Online Date: So you’re on your second or third rendezvous with the person you met on eHarmony or Dating.com. If you’re not sure yet whether marriage is a possibility, try something middle-of-the-road, like merlot. Yes, it’s the soft jazz of wine, but until you know, play it safe.

    Natalie also sagely reminds us not to forget yourself:

    …even Santa’s little helpers need more than milk and cookies. Try something with high-alcohol like Italian Amarone or Rhone syrah: these big reds easily drown out tone-deaf carolling and pair beautifully with tired feet.

    For Natalie’s favourite wineries, tasting notes and recipe matches for all the wine types mentioned above, please visit:


    Creative Commons License photo credit: Paul Davidson

    Natural Food Expo East 2010 (Boston, MA)

    October 29th, 2010

    The show floor is open!

    I do enjoy a good trade show and the Natural Expo was one of them (the All Candy and Snack Expo is another).   The Expo East was smaller than ExpoWest but there were a number of interesting things to see and try.

    For Expo East, the three top trends that I noticed in the food category were:

    1. Gluten-free

    There has been a phenomenal rise in gluten-free offerings in recent years.    It would be interesting to compare it with the actual rate of people being diagnosed with gluten-related conditions.   Are gluten-free products healthier?     Alternative, more complex grains to wheat certainly are!   Quinoa, amaranth (or kiwicha) are high in protein and have a wonderful, nutty taste when roasted.     Other flours such as rice, mesquite, oats, tapioca and even coconut flour are great options too.    However, these types of flours are often combined with gums such as xanthan and even pectin to achieve that chewy, moist texture characteristic of wheat breads.

    2. Agave Sweeteners

    Stevia was the popular topic last year.  However, it is still not officially approved in Canada as an ingredient and it has an unplesant cloying sweetness that lingers even when you don’t want it to.    Should it be considered natural when it has already been bleached and refined?

    Best agave packaging with an Agave Cookbook author

    Enter Agave,  a by-product of tequila processing.

    The taste of agave is more pleasant than stevia and it is also now available in a powder form (Brand Aga-Fit).   Agave is available in many different colours  (clear, dark brown, amber, golden), which can be confusing.     A number of companies claim that blue agave is superior over other types.  But controversy looms in the high content of fructose in the syrup.

    3. Fruits everywhere!

    Similar to the IFT in Chicago – fruits in many different forms were everywhere!

    In the juice category, coconut water was very popular.    I tried each one and there were major differences in flavour.    Coconut water ( at least the coconut water I grew up with)  need to come from young coconuts to get that fresh, clean tasting juice or water as they call it.    If it matures beyond 6 months, that is when the flesh starts to mature and the water develops an unpleasant taste.   The “Zico” and “Taste Nirvana Real Coconut water” brand were the least favourite of mine.    They tasted like juice coming from mature coconuts – mature enough to grate or they could be from concentrate.

    Both O.N.E. and Vita Coco were true to the natural source.     I added Naked coconut water in the comparison even if it was not at the show – it also gets top marks from me.     These brands are all unsweetened and unflavoured.

    The best combination that I’ve tried of the flavour varieties was the coconut-lychee combination.    This combination was very nostalgic for me.  We use to eat this at  my grandmother’s house for the local fiesta, when they ordered this huge steel vat of sherbet made of young coconut water with the coconut meat, sugar and lychee fruits.  It was a wonderful treat in such hot weather.

    Dried fruits have come a long way from the typical syrup infused and sun or air-dried form such as the prune or the raisin.    The drying process has evolved to try to retain colour vibrancy, taste and vitamins.   There come in several forms, shapes, textures and sizes.     Freeze-dried fruits are crispy but to the point where the texture almost feels artificial.   The cost of freeze-dried fruits are also very high.    Swell-dried fruits or “Puffed fruits” combines the air dried fruit with changes in atmospheric pressure to “puff up” the dried fruit.  The effect is a very crispy fruit chip that retains a lot of the flavour and colour without the “freeze-dried” texture or cost.   YogaVive featured their apple chips at the show, their fruits are processed in China.    Please refer to the Ingredient Hotline, Inc. website for the ABCAR-DIC process.  The technology has been applied to several different types of fruits and vegetables with much success.

    More exotic fruits from South America and Asia are expected to turn up in the coming shows.  There are still a number of fruits not yet commercialized but are packed with antioxidants and other nutrients.

    Penta Water - Patented water??

    Patented water?   Hmm, not too sure of that.     It tastes the same as bottled water, wonder if it has the same freezing point.   It was explained to me that their filtration process alters the size of the water molecules, thus making it easier to absorb into the body.     I am still preplexed how a filtration process, which is suppose to be a physical process – how it can possibly cause changes at the atomic level?!

    Boston Clam Chowder with Oyster Crackers

    A fitting end to a great day of walking the show floor – a hot bowl of authentic Boston clam chowder soup with a side of oyster crackers.

    Quick Bites for the Week Ending 2010-10-22

    October 22nd, 2010

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