The prospect of eating kale or Brussels sprouts might make some people gag, but a British company is hoping a hybrid mix of the two vegetables called “kalettes” will appeal to taste buds when they start to hit the broad US market this fall.
The tiny, curly-leafed purple and green sprouts are being promoted as the first major new vegetable product since "broccolini", a cross between broccoli and the Chinese leaf vegetable kailan, was introduced in the US in 1998.
Though vitamin and mineral-packed kale has become trendy among health-conscious Americans, its marriage with Brussels sprouts in Britain was a product risk, says David Rogers, sales manager for Britain’s Tozer Seeds, which created the hybrid after 15 years of research and development. “Kale for a long time has just been known as a sheep food, really,” Rogers says of its reputation in Great Britain. “For a lot of people, the only time they’ll eat Brussels sprouts is at Christmas.”
The vegetable was introduced in Britain in 2010 exclusively to the up-market Marks & Spencer food chain under the name "flower sprouts", and is now moving into other stores. Rogers says it was “catching on” with British buyers although prices are more than 10 times the cost of Brussels sprouts.
“New varieties of fruits and vegetables are introduced all the time, but they’re usually minor breeding tweaks that result in better flavour profiles or colour,” says Ray Gilmer, a spokesman for the United Fresh Produce Association.