THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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NEWS: Great Tomatoes, Year-Round

Backyard Beauties
Backyard Beauties: A great tomato is joy.
  If New England’s Backyard Farms inspires farmers in other regions, Americans with a taste for quality tomatoes may be able to get them year-round. Once September arrives in northern climates, delicious, locally-grown tomatoes disappear and tomato lovers have only the memories until the warm weather returns. Tomatoes picked green and shipped from thousands of miles away don’t deliver anything approximating the flavor of a vine-ripened tomato.
But Backyard Farms, a greenhouse company located in chilly Maine, is bringing fresh, vine-ripened Backyard Beauties to local markets throughout New England, year round. Their Beauties are grown in environmentally-friendly greenhouses using state-of-the-art technology. While other tomatoes are traveling to the produce section from as far away as Holland and Mexico—a journey of weeks—Backyard Beauties stay on the vine until they are fully ripened. Picked today, they arrive in New England supermarkets tomorrow. The response has been phenomenal. Please, Backyard Farms: Set up shop in every region. Americans deserve great tomatoes all the time! For more information visit

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TREND: Olives—More & Better

According to the Trade Institute of Spain, the U.S. consumes about 170,000 tons of olives annually—about 1.1 pounds per inhabitant. Olives are seen as healthy snacks and are consumed in salads, in pizzas and on sandwiches. Even though the U.S. is a producer of olives, most of our olives are black olives used for olive oil. Between 2003 and 2006, imports of fresh and processed olives grew 26%, with a dollar increase suggesting that the U.S. is consuming olives of a higher quality as well. The main exporter to the U.S. is Spain (38%), followed by Mexico (22%), Greece (13%) and Morocco (6%).   Olives
Photo courtesy SXC.

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NEWS: “Real” Antioxidant Cocoa Debuts

Cocoa Powder
Cocoa powder.
  Belgium-based Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products, announces the launch of a unique new cocoa powder with true, measurable antioxidant benefits. ACTICOA cocoa powder contains a guaranteed minimum percentage of cocoa flavanols, making it a rich source of antioxidants. In addition to the health benefits, it’s also a delicious, full-flavored cocoa beverage (we haven’t tasted it yet, as the official word just came out, but we’re very familiar with the company’s products, and we’ll take it on faith until we get our cache for review).
Only two grams a day of the cocoa powder contain the amount of flavanols—the antioxidants in cacao—needed to have a positive antioxidant effect. Cacao flavanols are one of the most powerful antioxidants yet discovered. Though found in abundance in the raw cacao bean, most of the flavanols are destroyed during the conventional chocolate-making process. After years of research, Barry Callebaut has succeeded in preserving around 80% of the natural flavanol content of raw cacao in this new cocoa powder product. That’s good news for people who’d like to start and end their day with a nice cup of cocoa. Every time over the last few years that another chocolate bar (or fudge product) has touted its “antioxidant benefits,” THE NIBBLE has pointed out that such claims are a lot of marketing hype: that absent research on the label of exactly how many antioxidants were in the bar, it is a pretty vague claim, and that research is typically done on flavanol-enhanced cocoa, not on chocolate bars. We predicted that such a product would get to market sooner or later for those who truly wanted to get their antioxidants through cacao—and here it is! Next, as other companies do the same, we can anticipate, “Now, with more anxtioxidants than the other brand….”

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CONTEST: Spice It Up

Most people don’t realize they should throw away their spices regularly. Others hate to throw things away on principle. But McCormick, the largest spice company in the world, is offering a spice check challenge. First, you can test the age of any McCormick product on their website, Just enter the code on the bottom of the bottle and it will tell you if your spice is still good. (CAVEAT: Just because the date is still good is not an absolute. If you’ve “abused” your spice—kept it in sunlight or next to a heat source, for example—it can fade much more quickly. Read our article on keeping your herbs and spices fresh.) While you’re on the McCormick website, you can enter their daily drawing to win a fresh set of spices. A new winner will be chosen every day through December 31, 2007.   Cinnamon Sticks
Whole spices will last three to four years but ground herbs like oregano and basil may fade after just one year.

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PRODUCT WATCH: Rastafarian Chocolate

Vosges Rastafarian Collection
Zion Collection: You don’t have to be Rastafarianto enjoy this Jamaican-flavored truffle collection.
  Vosges Chocolates wants to bring out your inner Rasta through its Zion collection, a seasonal group of truffles inspired by the Rastafarian culture and the words of Bob Marley. The flavored ganaches let you experience the spices, fruits and flowers of Jamaica: allspice berry, calabaza, hemp seed nut, Jamaican sorrel, fresh ginger, mango, hibiscus flower, tamarind and Scotch bonnet peppers.
Rastafarianism is a religious and political movement centered in reclaiming African culture, identity and purpose. Rastafarians are mostly vegetarian and live off the land. They wear their hair in dreadlocks as a symbol of their dedication to God and seek spiritual enlightenment. Bob Marley was one of the first Rastas to bring the political struggle to mainstream music, spreading the message and increasing awareness. We don’t know if Bob himself has tried these chocolates, but you can choose nine pieces for $27.00, 16 pieces for $41.00. Available at Read our review of Vosges’ line of exotic chocolate bars and ice creams.

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