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Frederik Devos, grower:

"The demand for mini vegetables rises around the holidays"

As well as the avocado, mango and 'forgotten vegetables', mini vegetables are also an increasingly popular product. Seasonal products also remain popular among consumers. Grower Frederik Devos from Ardooie decided to take the best of both worlds and grows pumpkins and cabbage as well as mini vegetables.

Grower Frederik Devos grows cabbages as well as pumpkins and cabbages as well as kohlrabi.

In 2007 Frederik took over his father's cultivation company. Although the open ground grower started with leeks and courgette, he now works with different vegetables. "The types of courgette, leek and parsley that we grow are slowly changing," he indicates. "We started with parsley, but added pumpkins over the last five years. This concerns the Butternut, Spaghetti pumpkin and the special Halloween pumpkin. We have also been growing pointed cabbage this year."

Mini vegetables
Although the demand for mini and seasonal vegetables are two separate cases, Frederik believes they sometimes come together. "Over Christmas and New Year people was small vegetable varieties," he indicates. "Mini vegetables are popular decorations on plates in restaurants. They are usually supplied to the United Kingdom or Prince de Bretagne in France, but we will now also be trying it in Belgium. We try to sell the mini vegetables, such as mini carrots, that we have through the REO Veiling. We started cultivation last year, but you have to maintain a strict plan. After New Year the popularity of mini vegetables drops again slightly until Easter. The demand for mini vegetables rises again slightly during Easter."

More pumpkin varieties
Pumpkins are central for Frederik from mid September until the beginning of November. Various varieties are harvested around this time. "The Butternuts are around 1 to 2 kilos," the grower continues. "After harvest we store the pumpkins at around 12 degrees. This also goes for the Crown Prince. One day before the pumpkins are delivered we wash them, so that they're clean when they leave. In total we now have a few hectares of pumpkins which we have been growing for five or so years. It is striking that the traditional pumpkin is less popular than it used to be. This is probably because there is more choice. The Spaghetti pumpkin for instance tastes sweet and the Crown Prince is also doing better than it used to."

REO Veiling's figures show that pumpkins are increasingly popular among Flemish consumers. Whereas pumpkins were grown on 205 hectares in 2014, this number has risen to 505 hectares in 2017, of which 462 is in Flanders. More than half.

Frederik shows a white Crown Prince. Yellow Butternuts are in the front. According to the grower it is important that the pumpkins are in racks, so that they can ventilate properly.

According to Frederik the traditional pumpkins are facing competition from other varieties.

The Spaghetti pumpkin also benefits from good ventilation during storage.

Kohlrabi can be added to the list of forgotten vegetables that are gaining popularity once again. Frederik has grown kohlrabi for the last four years. "We grow and wash the kohlrabi here, " he says. "We see a growing demand for this product. People are opting for products like kohlrabi more and more often. One kohlrabi in mashed potatoes adds a great flavour." REO Veiling's figures also indicate that the kohlrabi is gaining popularity. Kohlrabi are grown on around 350 hectares annually in Belgium for the frozen sector, a figures that has remained reasonably stable over the last few years. This is a different case in the fresh market. The fresh market saw an increase between 2015 and 2017 from 170 hectares to 225 hectares, figures from the REO Veiling show.

The kohlrabi are washed in the background, after which they are weighed and packaged.

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