Kiwi patisserie engineer Hannah Clarke has developed the world’s first gelato made from upcycled toka toka (gold) kumara.
The culinary innovation is part of a new initiative to reduce food waste by demonstrating the use of imperfect fruit and vegetables in artisan food products.
Clarke, patisserie engineer from Island Gelato Co, says while premium foods are not normally associated with produce diverted from landfill, the ingredients have a number of advantages - including making the product’s cost more accessible for consumers.
She says while they have utilised imperfect fruits in their gelato previously, this was the first time a root vegetable had been used and required extensive trials to determine whether it was feasible.
“Recent flooding has seen the price of kumara reach a record $12.99 per kg in some supermarkets, up 164 per cent from just seven years ago.
“At the same time, thousands of tonnes of fruit and vegetables are dumped with minor imperfections which range from having an unusual shape through to being too large, too small, the wrong colour or too ripe for the mainstream market.
“Weather events are contributing to greater crop yield uncertainty and with climate change accelerating this process it’s becoming increasingly important that we learn to adapt and become more efficient with food production.
“We work closely with producers to rescue as much cosmetically imperfect produce as possible before it reaches landfill.”
Clarke says they have been experimenting with the gold kumara and was fortunate enough to find a supplier who had hundreds of kilos available after recent weather events.
The gold kumara brûlée gelato has a distinctive caramelised flavour and the high carbohydrate levels of the root vegetable manifest in an almost custard-like consistency when used in the frozen desert.
“While gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, there are a number of differences between the two products which are not well understood by Kiwi consumers.
“Gelato uses more milk and less cream than ice cream and there is also significantly less fat in gelato and with less to coat your palate, as a result gelato’s flavours tend to be more intense and more immediate. Gelato also contains less air than ice cream — which helps keep it dense, fluid and creamy.
Clarke says along with kumara she has been inspired to create a number of gelato flavours with other fruit and vegetables including avocados, bananas, grapefruit, rhubarb, blueberries, strawberries and other stoned fruit destined for landfill.
“We ended up with hundreds and hundreds of the most beautiful cherries, which were deemed ‘too dark’ for the export market, but they were just gorgeous. We needed to work with another Kiwi company to pit them all for us, but the gelato at the end was exquisite. It was wonderful that we were able to give money back to the farmer who grew such an incredible product.
“We are definitely on a journey with vegetables, up until now it hasn’t been something we’ve delved into much because we weren’t sure customers would go for it, but I’m hoping to bridge that gap.”
She says Kiwis are starting to understand the differences between gelato and ice cream and are developing a more sophisticated palate when it comes to flavours.
“New Zealand leads the world in ice cream consumption with a per capita consumption of 28 litres per year.
“Just as we’ve seen an evolution in the beer category and the emergence of boutique craft beers and ales, Kiwis are becoming more discerning when it comes to chilled desserts.
Island Gelato Co last week picked up 25 medals at the National Ice Cream & Gelato Awards, including a gold for its Sour Cherry & Rich Chocolate gelato which uses cherries considered too dark for the Asia export market.