New product directions

Ethnic cuisines, with their own particular herb preferences, are becoming extremely popular. With an increasing Hispanic population, U.S. vendors now supply culinary herbs that only a few years ago were considered exotic. Sales figures for epazote recently appeared for the first time on the National Wholesale Herb Report. As demand for Thai herbs and seasoners levels off, demand for Vietnamese herbs picks up. Less common herbs include chervil, curry leaf, salad burnet, sorrel, ajmud, West Indian culantro, Mexican mint marigold, hojo santo, garlic chives, lemon balm, shun-giku (garland chrysanthemum), Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolins), bergamot, rue, and summer savory. When possible, ethnic communities in the U.S. import their traditional herbs, but potential exists for supplying such herbs to local ethnic markets, or to wider markets if a trend develops. Urban areas across the U.S. with any significant

Since 2004 (until summer 2005) USDA has been rigorously enforcing a 1968 ban on import of "Szechwan peppercorn" (Zanthoxylum rhetsa) and fresh lime leaves (Citrus x aurantifolia 'Kef-fir') used in Thai cooking. These Rutaceae species are suspects in spreading citrus canker. Local production within the U.S. is still allowed, and imports are now allowed on a limited basis— if the spice has been heat-treated. 'Keffir' lime leaves were identified by Lynette Morgan in 2000 (see Resources) as a promising greenhouse crop for Australia and New Zealand. Lime trees are easily grown in a greenhouse, and propagation material for 'Keffir' is available through classified ads placed by Florida growers in the Florida Market Bulletin (published by Florida Department of Agriculture on-line). See www.fl-ag.com/fmb.

Hispanic population soon have their own bodegas selling traditional herbs and sea-soners. Herbs raised for an ethnic market must be propagated from the exact cultivar used in the ethnic cuisine.

ATTRA occasionally has requests for information on growing very specialized herb/ seasoner crops—such as ajwain, annatto, black pepper, royal cumin, galangal, saffron, ginger, black tea, coffee, chocolate, and capers. They have all been tried long ago in either greenhouse or outdoor production in the U.S., but significant constraints emerged in trials. None proved economically viable. See Resources/uncommon herbs for further information.

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