World Crops grown in U.S. Cities

A resource intended to highlight the crops

which suit the needs and cultures of the community

What are world crops?​

 

The phrases world crop or culturally appropriate crop are intended to represent any vegetable or herb unique to a certain ethnic group and important for cultural dishes, and is not commonly grown in the United States.  With rapid demographic changes in the United States as immigrant populations continue to increase, world crops become more appropriate as the availability of these unique crops are typically very low.  However, these crops are considered to be critical for many cultural dishes of immigrant communities and often are not easily accessible.  When they are available, these crops are often expensive or of poor quality.

 

We can work to build racial and health equity by illuminating where these crops are grown to best continue to build community and grow culturally appropriate crops. This work is being conducted to help improve food access by growing culturally appropriate foods for the community.

World Crop Index

Image via Cornell Alliance for Science

Bangladeshi Long Eggplant (Brinjal)

Bangladeshi

This long fruit starts out purple as it fruits, then turns green with purple and gray stripes along the length. It has a dense eggplant flavor, thicker skin than some other varieties, and less bitterness than some other types of eggplant.

Cultural Dishes

Beguni or Baingan Pakora (Eggplant Fritter) and Eggplant Curry.

Cultivation

Like other eggplant varieties, this eggplant is a tender crop and should be started indoors 8 weeks prior to the last frost date, hardened off, and only planted outside when the danger of frost has passed. When planted outside, it can be helpful to protect plants with row cover as they get established. They should be planted in a spot with full sun and be watered regularly. Detailed growing instructions can be found here and here.

Seeds can be found here.

Image via Popsugar

Bitter Melon

Bangladeshi (called Karela) & Chinese

"This relative of cucumber and zucchini is very bitter tasting and can be sliced and fried, grilled, or used in curries. It is a popular food in Bengali cuisine, and other cuisines of that region.  "

Cultural Dishes:

Tite Karela ko Achar, Spicy Bitter Gourd (Bangladeshi), Uche aloo boti (Bengali Style Bitter Gourd and Potato) and Beef with Bitter Melon and Black Bean Sauce (Chinese).

Cultivation:

These fruits can be grown in containers and need some kind of staking system, like a tomato cage. The fruits can be slow to mature, but should be harvested before they become fibrous.

Details on growing this plant can be found here.​

Seeds can be found herehere and here.

Image via Cook Like a Jamaican

Callaloo

Haitian

Callaloo is a species of amaranth and is typically a large leaved plant harvested similarly to either kale or spinach plants. The leaves are a good source of fiber, protein, vitalims and minerals. Callaloo is native to the Caribbean Islands and is regularly found in many Haitian meals. 

 

Cultural Dishes:

Callaloo is used in many Caribbean dishes, such as side dishes, soup, drinks, and served with saltfish.

Cultivation:

"Amaranth can be planted either via direct seeding or transplanting. In the Northeast region, greenhouse production is beneficial to maximize the short growing season. In greenhouse production, seeds are sown in trays at a rate of 2 seeds per cell to a depth of ¼ inch. Seedlings germinate in 2-3 days and can be ready for the hardening process within 2 weeks. Seedlings may be transplanted into the field in as little as 3 weeks from sowing. If direct seeding is used, seeds are sown in rows to a depth of ½ inch or less. Ideally, Amaranth can be harvested 45 days after sowing and can be harvested once or several times. Harvest is limited by cool weather conditions. The plants are harvested when the leaves are young and succulent. Stalks are severed below the node. After harvesting, the bud emerges and grows into a new leaf stalk or stem."

Image via Nick's Kitchen

Cubanelle Peppers

Dominican

These sweet and mild flavored peppers have thin-walled fruits that cook quickly but deliver a rich flavor. Many cooks prefer them to bell peppers.

 

Cultural Dishes:

Sofrito/Sazon recipie can be found here.

Cultivation:

These hot-weather-loving peppers produce fruits that are yellow-green when they are unripe and turn bright red, orange, or yellow when ripe, depending on the variety. Seed Source and Growing Notes found here.

Image via World Crops Database

Culantro

Domincian, Salvadoran ( termed "alcanate"), Haitian/Creole (termed "coulante"), Brazilian (termed coentro do para), Vietnamese (termed "ngo gai")

 Culantro has a similar taste and smell as cilantro, but is stronger and more pungent. It is used as an herb in many food cultures, and is an important base to certain sauces.

 

Cultural Dishes:

Sazon (dominican) - several versions. Recipe can be found here.

Pelau (Haitian): Recipe can be found here (use in place of cilantro in this recipe).

Cultivation:

“Culantro is a tender perennial and is grown as an annual in the Northeastern US. Due to the fact that it is frost sensitive and can take up to three weeks to germinate, transplants are recommended for the cultivation in the Northeast. Germination can take 3 weeks or longer even with bottom heat supplied at 75°F. The plants should be set out after the danger of frost has passed. Transplants should be spaced 4 - 6 inches within the row and no closer than 6 inches apart between the rows. It is recommended to use the same fertility you would use for leafy greens.

When culantro begins to produce flowers, the leaves become tough and less suitable for eating. The harvest is achieved by cutting the entire rosette at soil level. The flower stalks must be pruned regularly in order to maintain vegetative growth and maximize yields. It is recommended that culantro be grown in a warm spot in the shade to prevent premature flowering.


Seed Source - Seed is available from Johnny's Selected Seeds , where it is called ‘culantro’, and from Richters Herbs, where it is called ‘Mexican coriander’.”

Image via New Hampshire Public Radio

Daikon Radish

Nepalese

Daikon Radishes are known for their tangy, peppery flavor, similar to other radishes but are less sharp than smaller french varieties. They are crunchy and juicy, typically daikon radishes are used for pickling but can be eaten raw either sliced, shredded, or cooked in soups. 

 

Cultural Dishes:

Mula Achar (pickled daikon radish)

 

Cultivation:

Cooler Temperature, commonly planted in the early spring or late fall, 60-70 maturation period; seed source

Image via Flavors of Brazil

Jiló​​

Brazilian

Jiló is an eggplant-like crop that is popular in Brazil. It is originally from Africa and was introduced to South America during the slave trade. There are two types of jiló found in Brazil: Comprido Verde Claro and Morro Redondo. While both are valued for their bitterness, Morro Redondo is considered to be more bitter than Comprido Verde Claro.

 

Cultural Dishes:

'Jiló is used several ways in Brazilian cuisine, including as an accompaniment in main dishes, in soups and fried. In Southeastern Brazil, it is common in bars and restaurants to use jiló as a way to take away the taste of strong alcoholic beverages (tira-gosto in Portuguese). This is considered a good alternative to other dishes that traditionally are used in bars, such as pork rinds (torresmo in Portuguese), sausages and sardines, all of which are normally fried in oil. In rural areas of Brazil, where it is also known as jinjilo, jiló is an ingredient in a tonic used as a home remedy for influenza, colds, and fevers."

 

Cultivation: 

"Jiló transplants should be started earlier than traditional European eggplant varieties in order to maximize growth in the field. In New Engalnd, the recommendation is to start seeds 9 – 10 weeks before transplanting. Jiló plants will get much bigger than traditional European eggplants; plant heights exceeding six feet have been seen in Massachusetts. Jiló should be harvested shortly before it matures; as stated above, Brazlians will not accept Jiló that has turned color. It is recommended to stake and trellis jiló due to the size of the plants. Branches on plants not staked can break. 

Image via Flavors of Brazil

Kabocha Squash

Haitian

"Kabocha Squash is a winter squash with a more dry, rich, and smooth than a butternut squash. It has a deep orange color and dense, sweet-tasting flesh. It is among the sweetest winter squashes, even sweeter than butternut. It is a wonderful food to stock up on in bulk quantities during the fall, as squashes with undamaged skin can be stored in the kitchen or pantry for several months and still remain flavorful and nutritious. They are high in vitamin A and other essential nutrients, and provide a comforting, healthy starch to dishes across many food cultures."   

 

Cultural Dishes:

"Soup joumou - This savory pumpkin soup is served in Haiti on January 1, the anniversary of Haiti's liberation from France. It is said that the soup was once a delicacy reserved for white masters but forbidden to the slaves who cooked it. After Independence, Haitians took to eating it to celebrate the world's first and only successful slave revolution resulting in an independent nation” Recipes for Joumou can be found here and here.

Cultivation: 

"Seeds should be started in the spring indoors or in pots and transplanted in mid-June after the danger of frost has passed. Plants should be planted in rich, well drained soil, and weed pressure should be managed. Harvest can usually be expected in mid-late September, and squashes should be allowed to cure. Once cured, squashes can be stored for several months.

 

There are many varieties of Kabocha squash (including “Sunshine” and “Cha-Cha”) and their seeds can be found here.

Image via O'ahu Fresh

Kale or Collard Greens

Portugese & Brazilian

Kale and Collard Greens are high in fiber, calcium, and iron and their flavor is slightly bitter. They can be eaten raw, but are usually cooked lightly.

Cultural Dishes: 

Caldo Verde (Portugese) and Couve a Mineira (Brazilian).

Cultivation:

Kale and Collard Greens are easy to grow and can continue to be harvested after frost. Growing and harvesting notes, as well as seed source can be found here.

Image via The Old Farmer's Almanac

Okra

Brazilian, Hatian, & Bangladeshi

"These seed pods have a slightly sweet flavor that is a cross between asparagus and eggplant. They have a mucilaginous (also called syrupy or slimy) texture that is used to thicken soups in many cultures. It is high in fiber and many essential vitamins."

Cultural Dishes:

Chicken and Okra Stew, Callaloo Voodoo, Okra and Oxtail, Dharosh Bhaji, and Dharosh ar Chinjri.

Cultivation:

"Okra grows best in warm climates so its peak season is the summer months. In Massachusetts, okra should be started from seed indoors 3-4 weeks before the last frost, and should be hardened off before being planted in the ground. Plants should be given about 1½ ft. of space in between them and 3-4 ft. between rows. The pods grow rapidly, being ready for harvest in about 60 days of summer weather. They should be harvested about 4 to 5 days after flowering, when the pods are 4-5 inches in length, before they mature and toughen. Okra comes in varying shades of green (there is also a new red variety), and can be smooth or have a ribbed surface. The plants are very pretty, with hibiscus-like flowers that bloom before fruiting.

 

Seeds can be found here

Roma Tomatoes

Salvadoran, Haitian, & Dominican

Roma tomatoes are flavorful, meaty fruits with fewer seeds than other types of tomatoes and they are especially useful for making sauces and flavoring soups and meat dishes in many food cultures.

Cultural Dishes:

Salsa Roja (Salvadoran), Boeuf à l'haïtienne, beef with tomatoes and peppers (Haitian) and Sofrito/Sazon (Dominican.

Cultivation:
Roma tomatoes, as with other varieties require full sun and some trellising.  Seeds should be started indoors, hardened off and transplanted after frost danger has passed.


Seeds can be found here.

Image via Eden Brothers

Image via Eatsxm.com

Scotch Bonnet Pepper

Haitian

These very hot peppers have a fruity flavor, slight sweetness, and a unique aroma. They are used in many Caribbean cuisines and pair nicely with tropical fruits or other sweet flavors.

Cultural Dishes: 

"Soup joumou - This savory pumpkin soup is served in Haiti on January 1, the anniversary of Haiti's liberation from France. It is said that the soup was once a delicacy reserved for white masters but forbidden to the slaves who cooked it. After Independence, Haitians took to eating it to celebrate the world's first and only successful slave revolution resulting in an independent nation” Recipes for Joumou can be found here and here.

Callaloo Voodoo recipe can be found here.

Cultivation: 

This pepper matures more slowly in Massachusetts than some other varieties. They should be started from seed indoors and transplanted after frost danger has passed. Since these peppers are so potent, they do not need to be grown in large quantities. Probably 4-5 plants on the farm would be sufficient for the harvest needed for the Mobile Markets. Growing notes can be found here. A seed source can be found here.

Image via Milkwood

Shiitake Mushroom

Chinese

"Shiitake mushrooms are edible mushrooms that have a lower moisture content than other mushrooms so they have a dense flavor and chewy texture. When eaten fresh, their flavor is buttery and meaty. Rather than washing them, cooks should prepare them by wiping them with a paper towel or cloth or gently tapping them on the counter to dislodge any debris from the gills of the mushroom. They can be sautéed with butter until the edges are browned or used in a variety of stir fry, rice dishes, or soups."

Cultural Dishes: 

"Dong Gu Dofu - tofu and mushrooms. Recipe can be found here.

Cultivation: 

Shiitake mushrooms grow on logs and can be a good way to utilize space that is not ideal for growing crops in soil. The process requires: space, shade, access to hardwood logs, shiitake spore, and water. It’s possible to start inoculating logs in late fall to utilize time in the growing season when less production is happening. Then mushrooms are harvested throughout the growing season, and can continue to produce harvests for several years.

 

More detailed information on growing shiitakes in the Northeastern U.S. can be found here.


Here is one tutorial on growing shiitakes on a small scale, including a link to how to purchase the spores.

Data Collection Provided by:

UEP Food Justice Spring 2016

World Crops for Northern United States

and

Delaware State University

  • Wix Facebook page
  • Wix Twitter page