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Beyond bugs: 12 unique (and strange) ingredients at Mom's Organic Market and what to do with them

12 unique (and strange) ingredients at Mom's Organic Market that go beyond bugs, and what to do with each.

Hidden among Mom’s vast plant-based milk section is Elmhurst’s Milked Walnuts, a creamy drink that can easily add a touch of excitement to an everyday bowl of cereal.
Hidden among Mom’s vast plant-based milk section is Elmhurst’s Milked Walnuts, a creamy drink that can easily add a touch of excitement to an everyday bowl of cereal.Read morePHOTO COURTESY ELMHURST

Honey-mustard cricket, anyone? Mom's Organic Market generated quite a bit of buzzzz after rolling out a robust line of insect products in its stores near the start of last year. The Center City store carries everything from whole roasted mealworms to peanut-butter-and-chocolate cricket protein bars to mealworm coconut brittle to insect protein powder.

>>Read more: Jiminy Cricket! You're going to eat what? | Stu Bykofsky

However, the store — there are also outposts in Cherry Hill and Bryn Mawr — offers interesting and unusual products far beyond bugs.

From zero-calorie monk fruit sweetener to gigantic cage-free duck eggs to green banana flour, mostly healthy (and sometimes strange-sounding) ingredients of all sorts fill the shelves. Here are a dozen items bound to add intrigue to your next cooking endeavor.

1. Elmhurst Milked Walnuts (and Hazelnuts)

Almond milk and 2 percent dairy have become practically synonymous, but other nut milks are far less commonplace. Possibly the least widespread is walnut milk, which can be found commercially produced from Elmhurst alongside the abundance of other milk options in Mom's refrigerator section. Made simply from walnuts, water, and a pinch of salt and sugar, the creamy, dairy-free milk provides a change of pace from almond, soy, or other ordinary lactose-free milks. If walnuts don't excite you, reach for the Elmhurst Milked Hazelnuts instead.

How to use it: Pour into cereal, smoothies, or oatmeal. (Mix with chocolate syrup or cocoa powder for a fun take on chocolate milk.)

Price: $5.59 for 32 fluid ounces.

2. Lakanto Monk Fruit Sweetener

A zero-calorie sweetener named after monks … say what? Grown in Southeast Asia, the small green melon known as monk fruit was first used by Buddhist monks in the 13th century. Its sweetness is derived from compounds called mogrosides, which the body processes differently from sugars like sucrose and fructose. Sweet news: They don't cause a spike in blood sugar. This naturally calorie-free version of monk fruit sweetener from Lakanto mixes in erythritol found in fruit and vegetables to create an ingredient that can be used as a one-to-one replacement for sugar. (As opposed to many other natural, super-concentrated sugar substitutes, this takes the headache out of using it in baking.) Another pro: Users report there is little to no aftertaste, a problem with products like Stevia.

How to use it: Try swapping it for the sugar in your favorite cookie recipe  or stir a pinch into coffee or tea.

Price: $6.99 for an 8.29-ounce bag.

3. Cultures for Health Organic Vegetable Rennet

Vegetarian cheese lovers, rejoice! Organic vegetable rennet is available  in an eyedrop-size bottle in the refrigerator case at Mom's. Rennet is an enzyme used in making cheese to help milk separate into curds and whey. Typically, it's derived from the stomachs of calves, lambs, or goats. The Cultures for Health version is microbial in origin, serving as an animal-free product that is equally able to coagulate the proteins in milk. For the curious vegetarian, it becomes the perfect excuse to experiment with crafting a mild mozzarella, one of the easier cheeses to conquer at home.

How to use it: Designed for at-home cheese-making.

Price: $5.99 for a 1-ounce bottle.

4. Rollingreens Millet Tots

Kids love tots. Napoleon Dynamite loves tots. Even most health nuts can't turn down a salty tater tot — especially when  given a nutritious makeover. Rollingreens has upgraded the classic snack by swapping potatoes for millet, an ancient grain full of fiber and a host of other nutrients. Available in the same dipable, bite-size shape, the crispy finger food makes for an easy after-school or post-work snack.

How to use it: No recipe required. Simply bake in the oven and pair with ketchup or other dipping sauces.

Price: $5.59 for an 11.5-ounce box.

5. Wheatgrass by the tray

It's easy to find wheatgrass in the freezer section of most Whole Foods and health food stores. But to get it fresh, generally you'll need to take a trip to your local juice shop and pay the cost of a cup of coffee (or more) for a measly one-ounce shot. If you have a juicer, you can buy wheatgrass alive and by the trayful at Mom's to make your own juice at home. Although, be warned, the grassy green certainly isn't for everyone, with a strong earthiness that some compare to lawn clippings. (This is where the shot glass comes in.) Full of nutrients, however, the popular medicinal zinger can make for an energizing breakfast addition, with the fresh grass delivering a more tolerable taste than powders and other forms.

How to use: You could add wheatgrass to a smoothie. However, rather than decreasing your shake's deliciousness, you'll probably just want to juice the grass and down it as a double shot.

Price: $19.99 for a large tray; $6.99 for smaller trays.

6. Grindstone Neck Cold Smoked Mussels

Want a conversation starter? Substitute smoked mussels in place of smoked salmon on your next appetizer tray. Treated with cherry-blend hardwood smoke, Grindstone Neck's Cold Smoked Mussels come from a family-owned business in Maine. Though  tasty as-is, the nutty mussels are incredibly versatile in chowders, salads, and more.

How to use: Serve as-is, or toss into pasta with garlic, tomatoes, capers, olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs, such as parsley and/or basil.

Price: $7.89 for a 6-ounce package.

7. Nuco Organic Coconut Wraps

Nuco Organic's Coconut Wraps look like tortillas but are made entirely from coconut. Emanating island vibes, the gluten-free option is derived from coconut meat, coconut water, and unrefined virgin coconut oil, creating a combination that works well for wrapping both savory and sweet ingredients. The 100 percent raw, minimally processed wraps are available in a turmeric-flavored version, too.

How to use: Use for tacos (think fish with mango salsa) or as you would a crepe, rolling one up with bananas, strawberries, chocolate sauce, and powdered sugar.

Price: $6.99 for five wraps.

8. Risser Farms Cage-free Duck Eggs

It's undeniably fun to go beyond standard brown or white chicken eggs every once in a while to experiment with a different kind of over-easy. Here's where the duck eggs at Mom's can step in. The gigantic, cage-free ovoids from Risser Farms have a slightly larger yolk and a richer taste due to an extra boost of fat and protein. Given their thicker shell, duck eggs naturally stay fresh longer, too, so you can take your time in cherishing them for breakfast.

How to use: Opt for a sunny-side-up or over easy/medium cooking preparation to admire the giant orange yolk, or whisk into a scrambled version for a simple but notably richer-than-chicken egg breakfast.

Price: $3.29 for four jumbo eggs.

9. Let’s do Organics Green Banana Flour

A popular gluten-free option, banana flour is made entirely from green bananas, picked while young before most of the starch has a chance to ripen into sugar. The flour is mild (not fruity) and is often used in baking and as a thickener for  gravies and smoothies. Its nutritional profile adds a hefty dose of potassium and iron lacking in wheat flour.

How to use it: In a recipe, 3/4 cup banana flour can be used to replace each one-cup measurement of regular flour. Try it in pancakes or gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. A tablespoon or two can also be added to fruit smoothies for thickening and a boost of nutrition.

Price: $5.49 for 14 ounces.

10. South River Azuki Bean Miso

Mom's miso section is robust, and the most compelling offering  is certainly the Azuki Bean Miso from South River. Made from the small but nutrient-packed azuki bean, the miso takes on a red color, far richer than the typical soybean-fermented white variety. The paste makes a great option for those allergic to soy.

How to use it: Spoon it into a broth for miso soup or whisk it into a sesame dressing to toss with soba noodles.

Price: $9.99 for a 16-ounce jar.

11. LaLoo’s Goat Milk Ice Cream

Lower in fat, higher in protein, and easier to digest for the millions who are lactose sensitive, LaLoo's 100 percent goat milk ice cream is a pleasant treat to be discovered in the freezer section. LaLoo's is also a women- and employee-owned company, with the creamery right on the goat farm. The company partially attributes the minimal travel distance from udder to ice cream churn for the elimination of the tang in typical goat's milk products. LaLoo's ice cream tastes surprisingly similar to that made from cow's milk; its flavors include deep chocolate, snowflake vanilla, and sea salt caramel.

How to use it: Spoon into a bowl and top with sliced fruit.

Price: $6.29 per pint.

12. Sam’s Yams Sweet Potato Dog Chews

Want to treat your pup to something interesting, too? Sitting next to the bag of baked chicken feet, find Sam's Yams Sweet Potato Dog Chews, made from the 100-percent nutrient-rich orange taters that many of us know and love as humans. A drying process turns slabs of sweet potatoes into chews similar to rawhide or jerky for a treat designed to help clean canine teeth and gums. It's also low-calorie … just in case Fido needs to go on a diet.

How to use it: When your dog won't stop yapping, give it something to chew on.

Price: $12.99 for a 14-oz. bag.