In recent years, the lettuce sector has seen a lot of changes. The Salanova varieties and mini-Romanas lettuce for instance have quickly found their way in to European trade. At the moment there is another novelty coming up, which is establishing itself at a rapid pace. It is the so-called Chicarita. This cultivar from the Rijk Zwaan catalogue is visually best compared to the Little-Gem, but in the purely aromatic sense it tastes like an iceberg lettuce. In Switzerland, there is already a large development potential for the new product, says Christoph Keller, sales manager of the Zurich Reust AG.
Sales Manager Christoph Keller of Reust AG recently added the Chicarita to the product range
In the range until November
According to their catalogue, the Chicarita is best suited to be positioned next to classic lettuces. In addition, the lettuce can be marketed both as a single product or in processed form, or as an ingredient in a salad mixture. As a gastronomy supplier, Reust Gastro is constantly on the lookout for something new. As a result it has found a modern way of cultivating its own lettuce. "We have been purchasing the lettuce heads from a regional producer, Gamper Gemüse AG, since last week. In consultation with our provider or depending on availability, we will continue to breed the product for about 3 to 4 weeks,'' says Keller.
The gastronomical advantages of the Chicarita are numerous. ''The variety is very robust and has a good shelf life without sacrificing quality. As a result, I see great potential in the use of, for example, Chicarita as a commodity to be used on sandwiches. It is also a good alternative to mini lettuce; without the bitter taste, but still crispy. I see the product as being perfect for simple restaurants and canteens, but less so for the top restaurants, since there micro-salads are currently trending,'' says Keller.
In Switzerland, Gamper Gemüsekulturen AG is currently one of the few providers of Chicarita. This year, lettuces were harvested there for the first time. Elsewhere, for instance in southern Europe, the Chicarita is not yet grown on a large scale either.
Innovative family business
More than 60 years ago, Rudolf Reust and his wife Renate founded a company for vegetable and fruit wholesalers in Zurich. Today the second generation of the family business is run by brothers Fredi and Ruedi Reust. Over the years, the corporation has specialized primarily in supplying hotels, catering service providers, retirement and care centers and restaurants, and it regularly expands its product range with new innovative fresh produce, if possible regionally cultivated.
The Reust Gastro AG company operates within a quality assurance system, to the ISO 9001 standard: 2015 (BUREAU VERITAS) and was awarded the silver medal in a sustainability audit by EcoVadis in 2016.