Ingredient of the Month Archives


December 2019 - Havarti

Havarti is a semi-soft cow’s-milk cheese. Havarti is smooth, with no rind, and creamy to pale yellow in color. It has small irregular holes in it known sometimes as “eyes.” It has a buttery aroma with subtle sweet and acidic notes. Complete the quiz by logging on to the ACF online learning center, to earn one hour of continuing-education credits toward ACF certification.

November 2019 - Rosehips

The rose hip (rosehip) is also called rose haw and rose hep. It is the accessory fruit of the rose plant. It is typically red to orange, but ranges from dark purple to black in some species. Fresh rose hips are semi-sweet in taste but each haw holds a number of small seeds and hairs, which must be removed before consumption. Complete the quiz by logging on to the ACF online learning center, to earn one hour of continuing-education credits toward ACF certification.

October 2019 - Chestnuts

Chestnuts are the fruit of the Castanea tree. A spiny husk called a burr protects the chestnut. Chestnuts are typically harvested mid-September through November and are one of the easiest nut varieties to harvest and prepare for storage. Chestnuts can be used as an alternative to most other nuts though their sweet and earthy flavor will give any dish a unique twist. Complete the quiz by logging on to the ACF online learning center, to earn one hour of continuing-education credits toward ACF certification.

September 2019 - Star anise

Star anise is a spice made from the dried fruit of an Illicium verum tree. The fruits of this tree have tiny oval seeds contained in pods shaped like a star. These pods are tough-skinned, rust-colored and have five to ten points. Both the pod and the seeds can be consumed. Complete the quiz by logging on to the ACF online learning center, to earn one hour of continuing-education credits toward ACF certification.

August 2019 - Honey

Honey is a sweetener that is produced by honey bees. Honey is collected from wild bee colonies, or from hives of domesticated bees, a practice known as beekeeping or apiculture. Honey has a range of colors and flavors. The shades range from almost colorless to dark brown. The aroma of honey may be reminiscent of the flower from which the bee collected the nectar. Complete the quiz by logging on to the ACF online learning center, to earn one hour of continuing-education credits toward ACF certification.

July 2019 - Apricot

Apricot is a drupe, or stone fruit, that belongs to the rosaceae family. There are about a dozen varieties of apricots widely sold throughout the United States. All varieties are similar in taste, but differ somewhat in size and color. Color can range from yellow to deep orange. They are in season from May through July. Complete the quiz by logging on to the ACF online learning center, to earn one hour of continuing-education credits toward ACF certification.

June 2019 - Turkey

Turkey meat, commonly referred to as turkey, is muscle and can be classified as white or dark. The turkey’s breast meat is white and contains less fat. Turkeys use their legs continuously, which is why the thighs and drumsticks are sources of flavorful, vitamin and mineral-rich dark meat. Turkey meat is a lean protein powerhouse. Just one serving of turkey is worth half the daily recommended value of protein. Complete the quiz by logging on to the ACF online learning center, to earn one hour of continuing-education credits toward ACF certification.

May 2019 - Radishes

Radishes are edible root vegetables and are cousins of mustard and cabbage. Radishes have a mild to hot peppery flavor and crunchy texture. Radishes are usually grown as annuals and are harvested before they flower. They range in shape from spherical to long and cylindrical or tapered, and the outside skin can be white, yellow, pink, red, purple, or black. Complete the quiz by logging on to the ACF online learning center, to earn one hour of continuing-education credits toward ACF certification.

April 2019 - American Lamb

Lamb is the meat that comes from sheep that are less than a year old. Sheep raised in the United States are generally processed at 7 to 10 months of age. Lamb meat is made up of muscles held together by collagen and silverskin. Lamb is a primary protein in many countries throughout the world, especially in regions of North Africa, the Middle East and parts of Europe.  Complete the quiz by logging on to the ACF online learning center, to earn one hour of continuing-education credits toward ACF certification.

March 2019 - Lemons

Lemons grow on a small tree in the flowering plant family Rutaceae. The outer rind, or peel, is yellow when ripe and rather thick in some varieties. The inside pulp is pale-yellow and split into 8 to 10 segments.. Due to the lemon’s acidity level, it has a distinct sour taste. Complete the quiz by logging on to the ACF online learning center, to earn one hour of continuing-education credits toward ACF certification.

February 2019 - Pulses

Pulses are the dry, edible seeds of plants in the legume family. They are individually known as chickpeas, lentils, dry peas, and beans. They are versatile, affordable, sustainable, and nutrient-rich. High in protein and fiber, they are an excellent fit for gluten-free and flexitarian diets! Complete the quiz by logging on to the ACF online learning center, to earn one hour of continuing-education credits toward ACF certification.

January 2019 - Molasses

Molasses is a sweetener that is formed as a byproduct of the sugar-making process. It is usually produced from crushed sugar cane or sugar beets. While today it is often thought of as a baking ingredient, it adds aroma, color, and wonderful texture to a number of sweet and savory dishes. Complete the quiz by logging on to the ACF online learning center, to earn one hour of continuing-education credits toward ACF certification.


December 2018 - Black Pepper

McCormick Culinary’s® Black Pepper is an essential spice, beloved around the world, with a place of honor back of house and on the table. Among hot spices, black pepper delivers only a fraction of the heat you get from chili peppers. That subtle bite means it plays well with many other ingredients, enhancing, but rarely overpowering other flavors.

November 2018 - Spearmint

Spearmint is a species of mint native to Europe and Asia that is now grown throughout much of the world. Unlike peppermint, spearmint only contains .05 percent menthol. The flavoring comes from carvone which has a much sweeter taste and significantly milder cooling effect. Spearmint leaves can be picked at any point in the growing season.

October 2018 - Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are grouped into two categories based on texture when cooked. The pale sweet potato has light-colored beige skin with light-yellow flesh and has a firm, dry and crumbly texture that is not as sweet. The darker sweet potato has thicker skin with dark-orange to purple flesh and has a sweeter, softer and moister texture. Fat-free and cholesterol-free, sweet potatoes are packed with antioxidant-rich vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary fiber, for optimal health.

September 2018 - Chives

Chives have an onion flavor that ranges from mildly sweet to pungent. Available year-round, they have many health benefits and are high in vitamin K for strong bones. Add chives and their edible flowers to dishes at the end of cooking time to retain flavor and nutrients.

July/August 2018 - Okra

Also known as lady’s fingers, Okra is a pod grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world. It contains a thick, sticky liquid that acts as a natural thickener when heated. Okra offers a range of nutritional benefits to promote a healthy body.

May/June 2018 - Peas

Peas are a frost-hardy, cool-season crop that can be grown throughout most of the United States. They are one of the most nutritious legumes, rich in vitamins and minerals.

April 2018 - Strawberries

Plump, red and juicy, strawberries have a sweet, slightly tart flavor and a soft crunch. Grown in many states, California and Florida are the top producing states, with Florida growing most of the winter crop. Strawberries may be small, but they are an antioxidant powerhouse, full of vitamin C and plant-based nutrients.

March 2018 - Rutabaga

Rutabaga is a root vegetable that belongs to the cabbage family and is most likely a cross between a wild cabbage and a turnip. Rutabagas are larger, rounder and denser than turnips, with crisp, juicy flesh and a sweet, slightly bitter flavor.

February 2018 - Cinnamon

Available year-round, the sweet and warm taste of cinnamon is the perfect spice to use during cold winter months. Use its flavor to add warmth to sweet dishes and complexity to savory dishes. Learn more, including McCormick’s® quest for the best cinnamon, in the full article.
Sponsored by McCormick for Chefs®.

January 2018 - Mushrooms

Although mushrooms are treated as a vegetable, they are part of the fungi kingdom and do not require soil or light to grow. They have an earthy flavor that intensifies as the mushroom matures. They are an excellent source of nutrients with antioxidant and energy-producing properties.


December 2017 - Cardamom

Cardamom is known as the “the queen of spices,” and is the world’s third most-expensive spice. It has a pungent, slightly lemony flavor with a hint of sweetness and is filled with minerals and essential oils.

November 2017 - Jackfruit

Jackfruit is an exotic fruit with an oblong shape and spiny, green skin that turns yellow as it ripens. Inside, the jackfruit has orange-yellow fleshy bulbs between thin bands of fiber. Immature jackfruit has a meat-like texture and is often used as a vegetarian substitute. Mature jackfruit has a sweet flavor and is used as a fruit. It is considered a super fruit, full of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients with antioxidant properties.
Sponsored by The Jackfruit Company.

October 2017 - Winter Squash

Winter squash comes in many different shapes, sizes and colors. Full of nutrients, It is grows during the summer and is harvested in fall and winter. Still need an activity for Childhood Nutrition Day? Make a squash bar or play squash throw in an after-school program.

September 2017 - Onions

Onions add abundant flavor to a wide variety of foods. In addition to their nutritional value, onions have a unique combination of compounds believe to have valuable effects on human health. 
Sponsored by the National Onion Association.

August 2017 - Watermelon

Watermelon is a great ingredient to boost nutrition and a sweet, refreshing flavor to dishes. It is 100% usable and compostable from the rind to the seeds. For recipes, visit
Sponsored by the National Watermelon Promotion Board.

July 2017 - Dolphinfish

Dolphinfish, also known as mahi mahi or dorado, is a saltwater roundfish with bluish-green scales that fade to light yellow on the underside. The lighter flesh sections have a delicate, almost sweet flavor; the darker sections have a stronger fish flavor. Dolphinfish have significant health benefits and are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, selenium and protein.

June 2017 - Beets

Beets have a sweet, earthy flavor and a crunchy texture that becomes soft when cooked. They can be added raw to salads or cooked in a variety of dishes. Beets are full of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties.

May 2017 - Fava Beans

These plump beans vary in shape, size and color, depending on variety, and have a sweet, mildly grassy flavor. Immature beans are tender with a buttery texture and can be eaten with the skin on. As the beans mature, they develop a stronger flavor and starchier texture, and the skins must be removed. Full of nutrients, fava beans are a good plant-based source of protein.

April 2017 - American Lamb

American lamb is a popular menu item thanks to the larger cut sizes, its distinctive flavor profile, freshness and tenderness. It is naturally nutrient rich and is an excellent source of high-quality protein.
Sponsored by the American Lamb Board.

March 2017 - Tarragon

Tarragon has a strong, sweet, licorice-like flavor and adds great flavor to many dishes. It is packed with flavonoids, essential oils, and other nutrients to support good health.

February 2017 - Mangos

Mangos are considered a super fruit with a range of health promoting nutrients. They have golden-orange flesh that is sweet and juicy with a texture that varies from creamy and smooth to firm and fibrous. Mangos add sweetness to salads, chutneys and stir-fry dishes and complements fish, chicken and pork dishes.
Sponsored by the National Mango Board. Learn more at

January 2017 - Fennel

All parts of the fennel plant can be consumed - the seeds, the bulb, the celery-like stalks and the feathery leaves – and have a distinctive flavor similar to licorice. Fennel contains many vitamins and minerals that have antioxidant properties.


November 2016 - Cranberries

Cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines. They are low, creeping shrubs or vines up to 7 feet long and 2 to 8 inches in height. They have slender, wiry stems that are not thickly woody and have small evergreen leaves. The flowers that bloom from these plants are dark pink, with very distinct reflexed petals, leaving the style and stamens exposed and pointing forward. Cranberry shrubs and vines are pollinated by bees.

October 2016 - Cheese

Cheese is a food product that is created from milk that is produced in a wide array of flavors and textures by the thickening of the milk protein casein, which is a protein precipitated from milk, and forms the basis of cheese. It comprises proteins and fat from cows’ milk predominantly, but other types of milk are used as well, such as buffalo, goat or sheep’s milk. During production, milk is acidified and an enzyme called rennet is added to cause coagulation.

September 2016 - Coconuts

Coconuts are technically considered a drupe, or a fruit with a central stone surrounded by a husk. Depending on the variety, the husk turns from green, red or yellow to brown as the coconut ripens. The coconut flesh is covered by a hairy hard brown shell. The hollow part inside the shell is filled with coconut water. The sweet-tasting coconut flesh goes from juicy and tender to slightly tough and fibrous as the fruit ripens. Young coconut water is refreshing and sweet with a slightly acidic taste. Coconut is available year-round with a peak season from October to December.

August 2016 - Blackberries

Blackberries are typically a dark shade of purple and have a sweet, slightly tart and earthy flavor. Depending on the variety, they come in oval, round and elongated shapes. Blackberries can be enjoyed raw or cooked and are in season in the summer.

July 2016 - Prickly Pear

Prickly pear is an oval-shaped fruit that ranges in skin color from yellow to purple. It has soft, spongy flesh that can be found in many different colors—white, green, yellow, red or purple—with edible black seeds. It has a sweet flavor similar to a blend of tropical fruits and is considered a superfruit.

June 2016 - Asparagus

Asparagus is a nutrient-dense vegetable that comes from the early shoot of a plant in the lily family. The spears are commonly 6–8 inches tall and range in diameter from pencil-thin to jumbo-thick, depending on variety. They have a succulent taste and tender texture, and come in green and purple varieties.

May 2016 - Dill

Full of vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting nutrients, dill is an aromatic herb that belongs to the carrot family. Dill leaves have a delicate grassy flavor, while dill seeds have a stronger, slightly bitter flavor. Enhance the flavor of your dishes by adding dill to sauces, potato salads and fish.

April 2016 - Dragon Fruit

High in antioxidants, dragon fruit is considered a super fruit with vitamins and minerals that keep the body healthy and protect against aging, cancer and disease. The juicy red or white flesh has a mildly sweet flavor and is full of crunchy, edible seeds. Add dragon fruit to fish or shrimp tacos for a healthy, refreshing dish.

March 2016 - Pecans

Did you know that pecans are technically considered a drupe? The pecan fruit has a green, fleshy outer husks that splits into four sections to reveal a single large seed, or “nut.” They are heart healthy and full of healthy nutrients.

February 2016 - Black Rice

Black rice, also known as forbidden rice, is similar to brown rice and has a chewy texture with a rich, earthy and nutty flavor. It is considered a superfood and contains one of the highest levels of the antioxidant found in food.

January 2016 - Adzuki Beans

Adzuki beans are not well-known in the U.S. market, but they are gaining popularity as an easily digestible bean full of healthy nutrients. The small red/brown beans have a sweet, nutty flavor and can be used as a dry bean, fresh in the pod or as a crunchy sprout.


December 2015 - Rutabaga

Rutabagas are thought to be a cross between a wild cabbage and a turnip. They are larger, rounder and denser than turnips and have crisp, juicy flesh with a sweet, slightly bitter flavor. Rutabagas offer a range of nutritional benefits and are a great addition to soups, stews and casseroles. Learn more, including a tasty recipe for Cider Braised Pot Roast with Maple Baked Root Vegetables.

November 2015 - Eggs

We may never know which came first—the chicken or the egg. But we do know that the egg is a versatile and nutritious ingredient that can be incorporated into dishes or prepared on its own. It is a good protein source and contain several vitamins and minerals for optimal health. Learn more, including a delicious recipe for Greek egg soup and Mexican frittatas.

October 2015 - Honey

Sweet and silky, honey is nutritious alternative to sugar for adding sweetness to dishes. It comes in a variety of colors, but the darker the color, the more intense the flavor. Raw honey contains a small amounts of particles with antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties to keep the body healthy. Learn more and try different recipes, including Honey Citrus Salad and Lentil Panna Cotta.

September 2015 - Salmon

Salmon is a fatty fish with a strong, rich flavor, however, farm-raised salmon doesn’t have the same intense flavor as wild-caught salmon. It is an excellent source of selenium and protein, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Learn more, including a recipe for Pink Salmon Shepherd’s Pie and Grilled Salmon on a Citrus Pistachio Couscous Salad.

July 2015 - Eggplant

Although used as a vegetable in the kitchen, eggplant is botanically classified as a berry. While raw eggplant can taste bitter, when cooked, it becomes tender and sweet with a meaty, spongy quality. Low in saturated fat and cholesterol, eggplant contains vitamins and minerals to improve overall health and enhance resistance to various diseases. Learn more, including a delicious recipe for Eggplant Fiesta Ragout.

June 2015 - Parsley

Parsley is more than just a decorative garnish. It adds a slightly peppery, fresh taste to dishes and is packed with many healthful nutrients. Curly-leaf is bitterer and Italian, or flat-leaf, is slightly sweeter and more pungent. Learn more, including a tasty recipe for Parmesan Malfatti.

May 2015 - Lamb

Lamb is a flavorful and nutrient-rich protein that can be used much like beef in most recipes. It is an excellent source of protein and has a lower total fat content compared to other meats. Lamb is quite common in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, and is gaining popularity in the U.S. Learn more, including a tasty recipe for American Lamb Tacos with Mango/Jicama Slaw.

April 2015 - Ricotta Cheese

Used in both sweet and savory dishes, ricotta cheese is high in health-promoting vitamins and minerals, such as calcium to support bone health and zinc for a healthy immune system. Italian ricottas typically come from sheep’s milk, but can also be made from cow’s, goat’s or Italian water buffalo’s milk. American ricottas are commonly made with a combination of whey and whole or skim milk, which produces a wetter, creamier ricotta than Italian versions. Learn more, including recipes for Italian Pear Cheesecake and Crab Spinach Mousse.

March 2015 - Common Mushrooms

Common mushrooms have a meaty texture with an earthy flavor that intensifies as they mature. Low in fat and cholesterol, they contain nutrients that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories and are a good source of energy-producing vitamins and mineral. Learn more, including recipes for Mashed Potato-Stuffed Mushrooms and Middle Eastern Meatballs.

February 2015 - Millet

Millet is a gluten-free, nutrient rich grain packed with vitamins and minerals for optimal health. It has a slightly nutty flavor with a crunchy texture similar to brown rice. Blend cooked millet into a creamy mixture for a healthy alternative to mashed potatoes. Learn more, including a tasty recipe for a Super Salad with with Yuzu Soy Dressing.

January 2015 - Cabbage

Low in saturated fat and cholesterol, cabbage contains an abundance of vitamin K for bone health, as well as high amounts of vitamin C for immune health. Add chopped cabbage to lasagna, shepherd’s pie and other casserole dishes for a sweet, earthy flavor. Learn more, including a delicious recipe for Chop Chae.