Developing sustainable production practices for new tropical vegetables for the Northeastern United States.
The United States of America has been a destination of immigrants since its inception. Immigrants have always brought with them their rich cultural food preferences, including species of fresh fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs. Since 1960, a majority of immigrants arriving to the United States have been from tropical and sub-tropical regions of Latin America, Asia and Africa, and they come with preferences for fresh produce originating or popular in these regions. Growers in Massachusetts, made up mainly of family farms, are always looking for new and expanding markets, and need research-based information on new crops desired by these immigrant groups before dedicating valuable crop land to their production. Despite the fact that Massachusetts is located in a temperate zone in Northeastern United States, the majority of vegetable species from the tropical regions of the world can be grown in the Northeastern United States during the growing season. More than 70% of the 10,000 hectares of vegetable crops grown in this state have their center of origin in tropical or sub-tropical regions. The University of Massachusetts has been conducting research since 1995 to establish sustainable production practices for tropical vegetables and herbs in the Northeastern United States. Examples of crops now being grown on commercial farms due to this work are taioba (Xanthosoma sagittifolium), chipilín (Crotalaria longirostrata) and maxixe (Cucumis anguria). Research on these and other crops at UMass established their viability and market potential for adoption by commercial farmers.