Trend Watch: Marigold, stinging nettle, ajo blanco

By Katie Belflower

For restaurants and chefs it’s important to be innovate as a way to stand out in a competitive marketplace. Staying up to date on the latest food trends is one way to stay a step ahead and treat your guests to something new and delicious. This latest edition of Trend Watch focuses on three menu trends that are being seen across Canada right now: marigold, stinging nettle, ajo blanco.


Marigold is a bright orange edible flower with a mild, slightly tangy flavour. Operators are spotlighting the flower as a bright, eye-catching addition to light, seafood- or vegetable-centric dishes, as well as adult beverages. Menu examples:

  • Battuto in Quebec City served Carpaccio with scallop, cucumber, radish, dill, and marigolds
  • Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario, menued Heirloom Carrots with terrine “en gelée,” ginger, marigolds, and soft herb vinaigrette

Stinging nettle

Stinging nettle, a medicinal plant with a mild, spinach-like taste is trending at independent restaurants. The functional plant is high in vitamins and nutrients and has anti-inflammatory properties. Stinging nettle must be cooked before eating to destroy the hairs on it, which can irritate the mouth and give the stinging nettle its name. Given its fresh, mild taste, operators can use the plant in place of other greens. Menu examples:

  • Fusion Grill in Winnipeg, Manitoba, offered Panko-Crusted Pickerel Cheeks with stinging nettle aioli
  • The Acorn in Vancouver, British Columbia, served Wild Greens with stinging nettle alkaline noodles, mentsuyu broth, Lance’s wild greens, pickled ginger, and bonito

Ajo blanco

Ajo blanco is a popular cold Spanish soup sometimes called white gazpacho. It is made with bread, crushed almonds, garlic, olive oil, salt, and vinegar, and is typically served with green grapes on top. However, most of the operators featuring the soup are using it as more of a sauce, serving it alongside vegetable- and seafood-based dishes. This is an example of operators adapting global foods in new ways for their own menus. Menu examples:

  • Fauna in Ottawa menued Delicata Squash with wild rice, sunflower, ajo blanco, herb salad, and shallots
  • Pompette in Toronto offered Tuna Tartare with ajo blanco, seed crackers, and capers

Trend Watch is based on menu trends noted by Technomic.

Katie Belflower is Associate Editor for Technomic, a Chicago-based foodservice research and consulting firm. Technomic provides clients with the facts, insights, and consulting support they need to enhance their business strategies, decisions, and results. The company’s services include publications and digital products as well as proprietary studies and ongoing research on all aspects of the food industry, including menu trends.