Rendering every part of a meal edible is nothing new; it’s the concept behind lettuce wraps, waffle cones, and tortilla salads. Yet what if part of your lunch was disguised as the bowl you’re eating it from? That’s the concept behind edible serviceware, a trending category in Japan, South Africa (where one can find “edible, crisp wheat bowls”) and now the United States, where a company called Biosphere Technology hopes edible plates and bowls will become a fixture at sustainably minded meetings.
At the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago in May, the company unveiled a U.S.-made, highly compostable range of plates, bowls, and bakeware made from reconstituted food waste. It’s called blueware, and it’s molded from the food scraps gathered from supermarkets and other venues. The pastel-colored serviceware is freezer-, oven- and microwave-safe, and will break down within 40 days in home compost bins, 10 days in commercial compost facilities, and 21 days in water (as opposed to three years for regular plates). “Our vision is to provide zero waste to landfills,” said Mindy Agnew, director of business development for Biosphere Technology, when I interviewed her for our July article on reducing food waste at meetings (which will be online and in print next week).
Agnew was kind enough to send me some blueware samples. While the plates are not yet edible, the bowls are. Yesterday, I took them out for a test run — which included downing a bowl as part of my dessert.
First, I loaded one plate with a drippy Caprese salad. The (non-edible) blueware plate was much firmer than the average paper plate, with graceful, decorative circles along its rim that a visual person can appreciate. No bending or spillage here, and even after letting the oil and vinegar pool for awhile on top, there was zero seepage through to the bottom of the plate. Win!
Next, I served up some vanilla coconut-milk ice cream in one of the edible blueware bowls, which resemble terra-cotta cups. To the touch, they have a brushed cardboard consistency, and smell faintly of chocolate.
After I downed the ice cream, I took an tentative bite. The cup itself had the texture of a super-firm but stale Communion wafer blended with cardboard, and made a satisfying ripping noise as I bit into it. The flavor: Faintly sweet and waffle-cone-esque, with undertones of Nilla Wafer and cocoa. It wasn’t unpleasant at all, and in fact kind of tasty — texture notwithstanding. The bowl felt like part of my desert, albeit in a futuristic, Fifth Element kind of way. I have no idea how many calories it contained.
It’s fun to think that manufacturers of edible plates and bowls might keep finessing flavor, adding in hints of lemon, chili, or even bacon. In the meantime, blueware is a promising start in a cool new category.