Glasshouse-grown vanilla among new flavours tested by Dutch public

Dutch consumers will this week be able taste vanilla from home-grown pods as well as other novel horticultural crops, as breeders and growers seek to develop viable new lines to gain a competitive edge.

Image: Sunil Elias (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Image: Sunil Elias (CC BY-SA 3.0)

"It was previously said that vanilla cultivation was only possible in the tropics, but it seems quite possible to do this in Dutch glasshouses too," said Wouter Verkerke, head of flavour at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) Greenhouse Horticulture.

"A well-developed infrastructure, stable government, high level of knowledge and close contact between growers and buyers make it possible to investigate the cultivation of such ingredients as black pepper, saffron, wasabi and vanilla."

For a week starting today (9 October), international visitors to Rotterdam's Markthal (Market Hall) can participate in taste research on a wide range of developmental fruit and vegetable varieties, while on 15 October they can visit WUR's trial vanilla glasshouse in Bleiswijk, which is heated by geothermal energy.

Verkerke added: "Dutch urbanisation has led to early specialisation in agriculture and horticulture. The Netherlands is still the forerunner in horticulture. The whole world is watching when it comes to our knowledge, materials and craftsmanship.

"However, we are quickly picked up by countries with low wages who copy this knowledge. Therefore, it is important to develop new earnings models for growers, such as the cultivation of ingredients for food, such as vanilla."

According to WUR researcher Tycho Vermeulen: "We manage to grow a very uniform product. We can be a reliable partner as we have a better expectation of what we produce in terms of volumes and quality."

Currently over 80% of the world's vanilla comes from Madagascar, a concentration of production that has caused prices to fluctuate considerably in recent years.

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