( Photo by The Packer staff )

As a food journalist and a relatively curious eater, I’m always a sucker for those end-of-year lists predicting what trends will be big in the new year. Part of me is genuinely interested in new or different foods and flavors coming to restaurant tables and supermarket shelves — and the other part of me wonders how many of these predicted trends will ever make it off the ground.

Fruits and vegetables fare well on most of these lists, as everyone from Whole Foods to Eater, Food & Wine to Popsugar includes at least one produce or plant-based trend.

Items that particularly intrigued me, since I do a lot of baking, were alternative flours (Whole Foods and “Today”), alternative sweeteners and seed butters (Whole Foods). “Today's” prediction list mentioned apple flour and green banana flour, and Whole Foods also mentioned banana flour as well as cauliflower flour. 

Pomegranate, date, coconut and sweet potato syrups or nectars were mentioned as alternatives to sugar or other traditional sweeteners, and pumpkin seed and watermelon seed butters are apparently going to be the next big thing. 

In order for trends to take off, however, they have to fit into consumers’ lifestyles — or be so compelling that they make people change established habits. I decided to try out some of these produce-derived flours and sweeteners for myself to see just how easy they were to use, and how tasty to eat.

The first thing I realized: Being trendy is expensive. An 8-ounce bag of Whole Foods’ 365 brand cauliflower flour cost $6.99, and a 16.6-ounce bottle of D’Vash sweet potato nectar (made from 100% organic North Carolina sweet potatoes) cost $12.99 on Amazon, as it wasn’t yet available in my local stores. 

Watermelon seed butter would’ve set me back about $14 a jar (for 8 or 14 ounces, depending on the brand), so I decided I could live without that trend for the time being.

The second thing I realized: Being trendy can take some know-how. I knew my cauliflower “flour” wouldn’t act like wheat flour, since it was essentially just powdered cauliflower, but since it was sold in the baking aisle as “flour” and only included a pizza crust recipe on the back as a usage guideline, I decided to try it out in pancakes and use the sweet potato nectar in lieu of syrup.

Well, that turned out to be a terrible idea, and I had to rustle up something else for breakfast. 

The sweet potato nectar had a pleasant tangy, sweet potato-y flavor, so I can imagine it would work well in baked goods, though I wouldn’t personally start using it on pancakes or waffles all the time. The cauliflower flour definitely tasted like a vegetable, so savoury applications like soups, sauces and casseroles would probably be best, or swapped in for a small portion of traditional flour in baked goods.

The biggest barrier to either of these trends, though, is cost. At $20 for two specialty ingredients, these were the most expensive pancakes I’ll probably ever make. 

Eating healthfully, in my opinion, should never become a form of elitism.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not against using fruits and vegetables in new ways or swapping in products like these to boost nutrients in a dish. But at the end of the day, fresh is still the best value. At my supermarket this week, sweet potatoes were $1.49 a pound, and cauliflower was on ad at $2.98 each. 

Amelia Freidline is The Packer’s designer and copy chief. E-mail her at [email protected].

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