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Specialty Crops

28 Apr

Let’s get real.  What are they? And how do you know that I already know?

Read on for a detailed and official description of specialty crops.  Test your knowledge and maybe add a few words to your vocabulary.  

Specialty crops are defined as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture)” by the Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act of 2004 and the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008.¹

There is a branch of agriculture called, horticulture, which is defined as “intensively cultivated plants which are used by people for food, for medicinal purposes, and for aesthetic gratification.” ¹  Intensive cultivation and use by people are two key components that differentiate horticultural crops (including specialty crops) from other crops.

Examples of specialty crop fruit and vegetables: 

Almond, apple, apricot, artichoke, asparagus, avocado, banana, bean (snap, green, lima), beet, blackberry, blueberry, breadfruit, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cacao, carrot, cashew, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, cherimoya, cherry, chestnut, chive, citrus, coconut, coffee, collards (including kale), cranberry, cucumber, currant, date, edamame, eggplant, endive, feijou, fig, filbert (hazelnut), garlic, gooseberry, grape (including raisin), guava, horseradish, kiwi, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, litchi, macadamia, mango, melon (all types), mushroom (cultivated), mustard greens, nectarine, okra, olive, onion, opuntia, papaya, parsley, parsnip, passion fruit, pea, peach, pear, pecan, pepper, persimmon, pineapple, pistachio, plum (including prune), pomegranate, potato, pumpkin, quince, radish, raspberry, rhubarb, rutabaga, salsify, spinach, squash, strawberry, suriname cherry, sweet corn, sweet potato, swiss chard, taro, tomato, turnip, walnut, watermelon

Examples of specialty crop herbs and spices:

Ajwain, allspice, angelica, anise, annatto, Artemisia, asafetida, basil, bay, bladder wrack, bolivian coriander, borage, calendula, chamomile, candle nut, caper, caraway, cardamom, cassia, catnip, chervil, chicory, cicely, cilantro, cinnamon, clary, cloves, comfrey, common rue, coriander, cress, cumin, curry, dill, fennel, fenugreek, filé, fingerrot, French sorrel, galangal, ginger, hops, horehound, hyssop, lavender, lemon balm, lemon thyme, lovage, mace, mahlab, malabathrum, marjoram, mint, nutmeg, oregano, orris root, paprika, parsley, pepper, rocket, rosemary, rue, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme, turmeric, vanilla, wasabi, water cress

Check back regularly with us here at Farm to Table for featured specialty crops.  We’ll include what you need to know about selecting, preparing, and eating a variety of specialty crops.  We’ll challenge you to try something new too! 

(image source: Urbana's Market at the Square)

¹ United States Department of Agriculture, 2011