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Current Position:Home » News » Agri & Animal Products » Fruits & Vegetables » Topic

Turnip tops: Typically Dutch spring vegetable could use a bit of marketing

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2017-05-05  Views: 6
Core Tip: If Popeye had eaten turnip tops instead of spinach, this vegetable’s area might not have been decimated.
If Popeye had eaten turnip tops instead of spinach, this vegetable’s area might not have been decimated. Both vegetables contain a lot of iron, but turnip tops also contain a lot of vitamin C, according to Louis Kester. “It's a wisdom that doctors often give to pregnant women: Eat turnip tops to prevent iron deficiency. An additional advantage of turnip tops is that they also contain a lot of folic acid.”

Together with his wife Miranda Louis grows, distributes and promotes Louis turnip tops. It's a hobby gone significantly out of hand, which they took over from father Kester. On the road to Kwekerij Miranda is a modern stall, a vending machine open 24 hours and 7 days a week. The turnip tops cost 1.50 euros for two bushels. “That’s going very well,” says Miranda Kester. “We’ve also put out plasticised recipe cards, which people can take for inspiration.” The Kester family developed a large number of recipes, and thus brings eating turnip tops to a culinary experience: from tasty stews, the more traditional way of cooking, to salads and spaghetti recipes. The modern recipes, such as Miranda's club sandwich and turnip top smoothie, are remarkable as well.

Louis sees a future in turnip tops. It’s not about producing as cheaply as possible, as is the case with cucumbers and tomatoes, but about creating added value. “In the past when we had a good year, we would sell bushels for 11 cent for three months. Now it is 30-40 cent per bunch on average, for 9 to 10 months. All of this is thanks to the use of (online) marketing. We also buy the seeds directly from the source now, and we keep an eye on the quality of the seed.”

In addition to home sales, Kwekerij Miranda supplies, in collaboration with Kwekerij Ammerlaan from Naaldwijk, to wholesalers, directly to a number of specialist greengrocers and even directly to (starred) restaurants. Paul Biekens, owner of Paul de Groenteman in Dongen, is an enthusiastic customer. The direct short supply chain came was created about 10 years ago during a springtime fresh produce fair. Paul was looking for a new supplier at the time, because the local grower he previously did business with stopped because of his great age. In Dongen and surroundings, turnip tops are gladly eaten. The eating of turnip tops is bound by age and region. “In Zeeland, they wouldn’t eat it,” Paul knows. “But here, people would make a detour for it, and as soon as spring is in the air, customers ask for it, sometimes even in January. And when we have fresh turnip tops, I place them in a bit of water near the entrance. I could practically hand them out.”

For the time of international trade and lean transports, the Netherlands was dependent on what could be produced outdoor per season. “Turnip tops are one of the earliest vegetables available after winter. In the middle of the previous century, there were hectares of turnip tops. These were grown in open fields in the months of May and June. During the years after the war, the supply of other types of vegetables continued to expand, often at the expense of local cultivation of turnip tops, but it also, for example, at the expanse of butterhead lettuce. Moreover, consumer had to do quite a bit before being able to put turnip tops on the table. They had sandy roots and yellow leaves quite often,” says Peter den Hollander. He also grows turnip tops, but on the other side of the country in IJsselmuiden. “I estimate that there used to be an area of dozens of hectares of turnip tops annually. It’s unclear now how many turnip top growers there still are. I personally grow 100 to 200 m2 weekly. The production is very small.”

Peter grows the breed Namenia that produces larger and longer turnip tops than the Ordinary Green, which are grown by Kwekerij Miranda and Kwekerij Ammerlaan in the Westland. “I started growing under glass about 30 years ago, and have developed a method that produces high quality turnip tops. I harvest them by manually cutting them, giving me a ready-to-use and easy-to-use product. It doesn’t even have to be washed. I've been doing that for about 20 years now.” Peter grows exclusively for Postuma AGF, which sells throughout the Netherlands. “For us, it's a seasonal and stable product. Peter will supply from late January and harvest until late June,” says Lotte Huurenkamp from Postuma AGF. They have also seen that the popularity of turnip tops is area-bound. “It’s sold more often in the north and east of the country than in the west and south.”

Compared to Louis and Peter, grower Pim van Wingerden from Wing Trading has only been at it for a short while now. He has been growing and trading for eight years, the usual green variant after seeing it as an opportunity on the market. Because a large player, such as Albert Heijn, buys turnip tops from his father's farm, Pim also thought it would be lucrative. Pim sells the turnip tops in distributive trade. He uses seed that was originally used for cultivation of turnips, from Japan. Last year he started a special breeding method, so that turnips don’t become fully grown. Pim can deliver two products in one because of that, a white radish-like tuber with the turnip top attached. “You could also sell both parts separately. When you keep them together, you have a product with a distinctive presentation,” says Pim. Although cultivation is still small, Pim sees a 10 per cent increase for his product every year, while prices remain stable.

Compared to the forgotten vegetables, such as parsnip, Jerusalem artichokes and scorzonera, turnip tops are not in the list of forgotten vegetables. Louis has noticed that turnip tops are becoming more popular: “Dutch supermarkets such as AH, Jumbo, Plus and sometimes even Emté typically have turnip tops in their range in spring. Retailers look at each other. If Jumbo is paying attention to the product in their magazine, AH wants it as well. In this way, turnip tops are brought to the attention of consumers.” Louis is very passionate about turnip tops. He sometimes wakes up at 3 o'clock in the morning to deliver the freshly harvested product to his customers in Brabant. Louis also puts the product on the map online. He has a Facebook page and a website that ensure the turnip tops can be found abroad through SEO as well. “I was recently approached by a Dutch cook in Singapore who wanted to buy 40 kilograms of turnip tops.”

Dutch turnip tops have dropped to be a small product on the market in recent years, but they are not completely forgotten. The consumer must be convinced of the health aspects and flavour to increase the product. Pim and Louis think the product has a future. It also fits into the trend of authenticity, craft and health. Both have experienced an increase in sales. Grower Peter does not expect the turnip tops to be as big they were before. He sees a stable market. It’s important that it stays on the retailers’ shelves, so that many consumers can get to know it. Despite the rather positive words of growers, there is one grower who doesn’t see a future in turnip tops. Fa. De Gier from Stolwijk announces that turnip tops are over, as far as they’re concerned. They supplied to The Greenery but stopped growing last year due to low demand for the product.

keywords: vegetable
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