Tenderstem shows success in UK

UK-grown Tenderstem broccoli is expected to make up 20 per cent of on-shelf produce in stores this season, strongly reducing retailers' reliance on imported produce.

Following limited trials in 2007 the crop has this year been successfully grown across southern England in areas including Kent and Worcestershire, and in Jersery. The main supply season started in June and will run into October.

The crop is planted out on a raised-bed system after six to seven weeks of nursery growing. Following eight to 10 weeks of maturing, the crop is then hand-harvested on a daily basis, with five or six harvests gathered from each crop. The produce is trimmed and packed on a field rig and refrigerated within one hour of being cut.

Vegetable grower Matt Gedney of T&M Gedney, Southfleet, Kent, is one pioneer of the crop. His organic Tenderstem crop has grown in size from 3.2ha in 2005 to 7.3ha this year.

The development has come about through a close working relationship with Marks & Spencer (M&S) buyers keen to cut reliance on imported goods in a mission to reduce the company's carbon footprint.

Gedney told Grower: "I was asked by M&S if I would like to take part in trialling Tenderstem in the UK. Initial trials proved such a success that we have upped production each year.

"We've tested different varieties and this has allowed us to extend the supply season.

"It's a labour-intensive crop but we already had a skilled labour force on the farm capable of handling it. By producing in the UK we are extending the product's shelf life by an extra day, cutting its carbon footprint and producing a far sweeter and more tender product."

Andy Macdonald, the managing director of Coregeo, Tenderstem's marketing arm, said: "British Tenderstem has proven to be extremely popular with consumers during summer 2008 and, while it will continue to be grown overseas to ensure year-round supply, it is hoped the volumes of UK crop will continue to augment year on year."

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