It is normally the busiest time of the year for the Swedish cultivation company Ugglarps Grönt. About 75 percent of their kale crop goes to restaurants through wholesaler Martin & Servera, but this year they are in danger of being left with large quantities as many restaurants have cancelled Christmas dinners.
Mikael Jidenholm, who runs Ugglarps Grönt with his wife Mija: “It started well and when the kale really started to grow three weeks ago, we thought we'd reach the top quickly. At the same time, new restrictions were introduced and most Christmas dinners were cancelled. The wholesaler no longer absorbed as much as before and we were only filling six pallets instead of thirty. We thought, oh no, we have too much left over! But we can't stop either, so we made the best of it.”
Ironic: best harvest ever
After a call on social media, they got a lot of responses. People called to buy something or to share their ideas, from kale smoothies to kale chips. This year it concerns about 150 tonnes of kale. In an autumn without the pandemic, Mikael had expected 110 tonnes of the harvest to be sold. They had also expanded the production this year, so that the season could be extended to meet the wishes of the wholesaler and the increased demand. Then followed a very successful growth period.
Mikael: “It's quite ironic, because kale has never grown as well as this year. We have adapted a bit to the cultivation technique, which gives us an increase of perhaps 30 to 40 percent. It is therefore a bit painful that we are now succeeding so well and then not able to sell. ”
Every little bit helps
Financially they will be at a loss, but Mikael also sees good developments: “We have now received a large order from Stockholm. There they will distribute information in the city centre and decorate shop windows with kale. That is a nice extra: more knowledge about kale is being spread. We also gamble on smaller orders: we are walking through the small local sales outlets and some collaborations have arisen, but we are still looking for more.”
From cooked to chips
Nowadays, kale is grown almost year-round at Ugglarps Grönt and the cultivation has grown from a half hectare to five hectares. When Mikael started 35 years ago, sales concentrated on the first two weeks of December. They packed the kale in five-kilo bags that were bought by private individuals. A few years later they were growing for a local company that froze and sold the kale and later on Ugglarps Grönt switched to restaurant sales. Until the consumption pattern changed ten years ago, Mikael explains: “I remember that kale chips suddenly became popular in the summer. Then people started buying kale all year round, so nowadays we always have kale. Still, kale is still linked to Christmas, so I think several growers are now dealing with too much kale. But when we all spread information, it really helps. We have seen that it pays to put it on all possible channels and people really feel involved. In this way we can make kale more famous and that is positive for all growers. ”