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9 Foods Americans Don't Eat Much Anymore—And Why We Should Start Again

Two generations removed from the farm, we're beginning to relish the foods that many of our forebears ate out of necessity.

Decades of devotion to convenient, mass-distributed, processed foods turned the national larder generic and bland. But by embracing local food sources, slow-food tenets, and ecologically sound methods, we're rediscovering deliciousness from back in the day. Here's a taste of nine new-old trends.

1/ BITTER FLAVORS There's a bitter-flavor boom under way thanks in part to bitters, the alcohol-based botanical concoctions, and a gorgeous riot of purple and green speckled chicories. Use them to add color and crunch to gratins and sautés. Try this: Rosso Tardivo radicchio, melissas.com

2/ HEIRLOOM APPLES Johnny Appleseed didn't just plant Red Delicious trees. Our continent has hosted more than 15,000 apple varieties over its history. Today's forward-thinking growers have restocked their farms with Nodheads, Granite Beauties, Pitmaston Pineapples, and hundreds of other varieties. Find them in the late summer, fall, and winter at your farmers markets.

3/ NEXT-LEVEL BREADS Tangy, chewy sourdoughs—mixed with whole grains, leavened with wild yeast, and left to ferment—represent ancient baking tradition, though we're just starting to appreciate it again now, thanks to small artisanal bakeries sprouting like wheat berries nationwide. Look for micrograin mills suited for home kitchens (and cricket flour!) as interest grows in baking with fresh-milled whole grains.

4/ ANCIENT GRAINS In the beginning, there was amaranth (black barley, farro, and spelt, too). Many years later, we worshipped corn, rice, and white flour. Now, the health benefits and the new world of the oldest whole grains have made us disciples once again.

5/ HERITAGE MEATS Breeders raising old-line animals—Ossabaw and Berkshire pigs; White Park cattle; Blue Andalusian chickens; Bourbon Red turkeys, to name but a few—bring to market incredibly flavorful protein, a stark contrast to the lean hybrid commodity meats in supermarkets. Try this: Poulet Rouge Fermier, joyce-farms.com

6/ CHARCUTERIE AND SALUMI Once exclusive to bistros and trattorias, house-cured meats have become a passion project for many American chefs. The movement falls directly in line with farm-to-table and nose-to-tail principles the food world has espoused for years now. Try this: Saucisson les Diots, salumeriabiellese.com

7/ BYCATCH AND OILY FISH Savvy restaurants now offer species once discarded as "trash fish," touting their tastes and eco-friendly pedigrees. The crusade is also a net gain for previously unfashionable oily fish loaded with omega-3s, like sardines, anchovies, mullet, and mackerel. Try this: Small Mackerel in Olive Oil, josegourmet.com

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

8/ FERMENTED FOODS Snappy, slightly effervescent Korean kimchi, unpasteurized sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha are among the most popular items laced with good-gut bacteria, proving healthy food can—and should—be the boldest-tasting, most delicious stuff you eat. Try this: Mother-In-Law's Kimchi, milkimchi.com

9/ AQUACULTURE After a century-long lull, oysters beds are repopulating our coastlines as bivalves come back in vogue. Look for more sustainably farmed finfish like catfish and trout and ocean farms of seaweed to help replace the demand for declining stocks of wild fish. Try this: Sewansecott oysters and clams, hmterry.com