“A sea of vegetables”

Salty productions in greenhouses

For more than 20 years, Hans Elenbaas has been active in the trade of sea greens. He was brought up on the love of sea greens. In the 1930s, his grandfather cut sea greens, as a little girl, his mother went door to door with the greens, and he and his brother started looking for glasswort and sea aster when they were young. A new development is that Hans uses his company Nieuwe Zilte Zeeuwse Teelten (NZZT) to invest in the production of a number of new sea greens in greenhouses to directly supply them from the coasts of Zeeland and France to international restaurants and supermarkets. To this end, he’s working with his colleague Aart Jan Bil from Schouwen Duiveland.

A sea of vegetables, that’s Hans’s creed, and if you were to look at his sea greens calendar, you’d understand why. Besides well-known glasswort and sea aster, the trader also offers herbaceus seepweed, sea purslane, sea beet, spoonwort, sea kale, sea fennel, sea lettuce, wakame, dulse, sugar kelp, nori, sea spaghetti, fucus and Irish moss, among other products. “This year we won’t have new introductions, but we have our work cut out for us with our current assortment,” Hans says. A considerable part of the range is also available organically, and Hans is SKAL certified. “The products such as sea fennel, seaweed and sea spaghetti are mostly shipped to organic shops. Glasswort is still our main product by far, for that matter.”

Glasswort and herbaceous seepweed

According to the grower, this year’s sales of sea greens are comparable to last year. “There are plenty of sea greens available. Qualitatively, both the French and the Zeeland glasswort is good, the French sea aster has better quality this year, compared to last year, but Zeeland sea aster is a bit poorer. For now, the weather hasn’t been easy for glasswort, because it’s been fairly dry. Sea greens need rain. We prefer the weather to be sunny and airy during the day, with some rain during the night.”

Sea purslane

“Fortunately, we’ve seen demand for sea greens increasing over the years, but we’ve also noticed some surpluses on the market. Unfortunately, poor quality is also marketed,” Hans says. “Glasswort should always be flavourful and tender, without stick, fibres or bitter aftertaste.”

Preparing the greenhouse

“I swear by the wild sea greens. Besides, we’re also investing in new productions. The production of sea greens is complicated and is still largely in its infancy. The plants are mostly salty, and very fragile because of this. Harvesting wild sea greens is heavy and labour intense. Sorting, packing and inspecting is mostly manual labour. But with a new packing machine in our conditioned hall and a new washer to clean sea aster, we try to automate more and more to save on labour.”

Greenhouse glasswort

For more information:
Hans Elenbaas
Elenbaas Zeegroenten
Oude Rijksweg 78
4339 BD Nieuw- en Sint Joosland, NL

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