Demand for the specialised winter vegetable Romanesco has been slightly impacted due to the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions placed upon the foodservice industry, according to wholesale company Simon George and Sons.
"Romanesco is certainly a unique line," Group Procurement, Matt George said. "It is available for a very short season and we find our customers are very excited to try it when it is available in special dishes, however, is not a staple menu item. With the restrictions this year across the country we have found that chefs are generally sticking to regular menus and therefore sales have not been as high."
Dating back to Italy, Mr George says Romanesco (or Romanesco broccoli) originally started as a trial of a hybrid seed between a cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprout, and has fractal-like florets.
"The trial went well and quickly saw a large demand for the product as it held a point of difference at a time of the year where a lot of exotics are available," Mr George said. "The product is used in many different ways anywhere from green rice to pizza bases. A lot of chefs like the uniqueness of this product as it still holds its shape and colour once cooked."
The peak season for Romanesco runs for a few weeks in July into early August, with supply coming from three main growing regions; Laidley and Gatton in QLD and Clyde in NSW. While there are only a few small-scale growers of the niche product across Australia, Mr George says the appearance is capturing new consumers all the time.
"Social media is definitely pushing the increased popularity of Romanesco with its ‘instagrammable’ shape and look," he said. "Everyone loves something different."
Simon George and Sons have a fourth-generation history of sourcing fruit and vegetables since 1927. It is a national company with six locations across Australia.
"We are very much locals at heart," Mr George said. "Within our national reach we are able to source the best and freshest produce year-round; from local dragonfruit from Northern Territory, mangosteen from Far North Queensland all the way down to slippery jacks from Victoria."
Mr George added that it has been an unusual season across the majority of its produce lines.
"It has certainly been a different winter season to others, given everything that is happening in the world," he said. "Lettuce has been challenging this year due to the growers having uncertainty in predicting demand, this means they have planted less and we are now seeing higher prices due to low supply. Truffles from WA are a star product this winter, they are excellent quality and great value due to less export so our markets have more available."