Parsley, basil, mint and rosemary are herbs everyone knows, but do you also know santolina, anise hyssop or common salsify? Besides conventional herbs, there’s more and more interest in culinary herbs with varied flavours.
Common salsify, also called oyster plant, has this name due to the salty flavour of its leaves. This can be compared to the flavour of oysters, and is even called ‘the vegetarian oyster’ on occasion. Vegobel is a nursery with an extensive assortment of organic potted herbs, and they recently introduced the common salsify to their customers.
The Lauwers brothers own the company. Steven Lauwers: “Many herbs have a very surprising flavour. Such beautiful little plants with such varied flavours. For example, santolina with its southern olive flavour, or anise hyssop, with its liquorice-like flavour. These herbs are fairly unknown on the consumer market, but professional chefs have been experimenting with these for a longer time now. We’ve noticed more demand for new culinary herb varieties, and we’re trying to respond to this by having more than 100 varieties.”
Vegobel can produce throughout the year in their large modern greenhouses, and they control the entire process, from seed to the actual plant. “We want to be able to supply fresh herbs to our buyers every day. To do this, we have to sow, strike cuttings and plant every day. On average, it takes two to three months before a plant leaves our greenhouse. A number of seeds are sown, but an ever larger share is being cut. Taking cuttings takes longer. During the growth process, we focus on quality and aroma of the plants, and not on speed. All herbs are grown organically, which is quite challenging. We’ve chosen organic because it suits fresh herbs better than conventional, regarding flavour, quality and experience. Besides, the organic sector is still growing, and consumers are also becoming more aware of the added value of organic.”
New trends and innovations are always being thought of, and this is also true for herbs. Steven: “‘Lemon,’ for example, has been in for some years now, and we also receive more demand for lemon verbena, a wonderful herb that tastes and smells great, it’s almost like a sweet. We’re also getting demand for sweet herbs such as honey verbena and anise hyssop. Demand for bitter herbs started increasing recently as well, and we marketed southern wormwood. This smells a bit like camphor and has a bitter flavour. This herb can be used in cocktails and all kinds of delicious drinks.”
Steven has seen consumers becoming more familiar with the fresh herbs, and he therefore expects customers to continue expanding their ranges. “We’ll continue to innovate using new varieties, and we added edible flowers to this as well. This is a fairly new concept that has had much success in catering. The organic market is growing, and so is the herb market. Because of this, I expect that we as a company will also continue growing.”More information:www.vegobel.be