Babé Farms' Matt Hiltner Talks Romanesco
- by Maggie Mead
SANTA MARIA, CA - I have to admit, when I was told I’d be writing an article about romanesco for Babé Farms, I had to Google it, but upon seeing the pictures I said, “ohhhhh yeah! I know what that is!” Romanesco is extremely distinctive and beautiful to behold, now I’m even thinking of using them as centerpieces. When it comes to romanesco, the folks at Babé Farms are experts, having been in the growing business for over three decades. While it may not be as widely known as, say, cauliflower, growing consumer demand for new and different produce means it’s time for romanesco to take center stage.
“What sets romanesco apart from traditional cauliflower is its sweet, nutty flavor, vivid chartreuse color, conical shape, and the ornate fractal pattern displayed in each of its many florets,” commented Matt Hiltner, Marketing Coordinator. “Each floret presents the same appearance as the whole head, but in miniature. This mesmerizing phenomenon repeats endlessly on each smaller floret. In addition to being a culinary wonder, romanesco is also studied by mathematicians who marvel over its fractals!”
Available year-round, with intermittent gaps, Babé Farms’ romanesco crop comes in both large and baby sizes, with the large size slightly smaller than your average head of cauliflower and available in 12 and 16 count packs. The babies are about golf ball size and are available in a 24 count pack.
“Getting consumers interested in romanesco is not the issue so much as educating them on how to use it in the kitchen,” continued Matt. “Anyone who sees romanesco is immediately drawn to its stunning visual appeal. However, its uniqueness can intimidate the run-of-the-mill supermarket shopper. At the end of the day, romanesco can be eaten just about any way you’d eat traditional cauliflower.”
In line with educating shoppers, Babé Farms shares photos and recipes on social media to give a visual example of the practical applications for the vegetable. Matt informed me that one of their more recent posts featured a photo of roasted baby romanesco, sprinkled with sea salt and lovingly drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Posts like these, showing easy applications, can help consumers to feel less intimidated by the unique vegetable.
Retailers are cautioned to approach displaying romanesco in the correct manner, as it is often lumped in with broccoli, but is really more similar to cauliflower, and should be marketed as such. Matt said romanesco would fit right in with a display of assorted colorful cauliflowers, with distinctly different signage, of course. The company is not content to let retailers stay stumped about marketing this distinctive veggie.
“One POS tool that we have recently made available are sell sheets for our colorful line of specialty vegetables,” continued Matt. “These eye-catching sell sheets provide quick bullet points describing the item as well as photos of the item and its applications. So far, we have gotten an immensely positive response on them and are in the process of creating sell sheets for each individual item we sell.”
Babé Farms is as unique as the produce it grows. Aside from romanesco, it grows over 70 other varieties of colorful and specialty vegetables including baby lettuces, specialty greens, baby root vegetables, and organic kale, among others. Owned and operated by Jeff Lundberg and Judy Lundberg-Wafer, the company makes it a point to not only deliver exceptional produce, but to make all employees feel like a part of the family.
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