In recent years it has been a tradition at FruitMasters that Romberama supplies the first Junifer red berries. Anyone who then decides to google the Belgian grower will only see amaryllis on the grower's website. How does that work? Raf Rombouts: "With this combination of crops, we can engage our staff more, and it also ensures cultivation is spread out." The grower has been combining both crops for more than ten years.
Raf's red berries come from an old type of greenhouse of 8,500 square meters. “We deliberately do not grow outside, because that makes the season very long and then there would never be a break in the company."
The greenhouse red berry season lasts just over a month. “At the beginning of May we are always on the market with the early red berries. The first or second week of June the season already ends again for us. Then we have to wait until mid-August to start amaryllis again on two hectares. That season runs roughly from October to March."
Innovations and ‘molting’
With the amaryllis, Romberama is undertaking a lot of innovations. Among other things, they carry out tests with plant sensors to guarantee even better quality. They also were awarded a prize for stress detection in plants. Not much innovation is done with the red berries. “The cultivation of red berries has been fairly stable for years. We have a lot of contact with peers who also grow early red berries in Belgium and with the test centers. However, the innovations are minimal. The big leaps that we make in the cultivation of amaryllis, we don't make with red berries.”
According to Raf, the biggest challenge in red berry cultivation is to prevent ‘molting’. “As a grower, you want beautiful, long bunches. Early in the season, however, it sometimes happens that the crop does not produce enough sugars to turn all flowers into berries. Then the berries fall from the bunches and that is what you have to prevent.”
Raf Rombouts and his children with the first Junifer red berries
Raf donates the 216 euros that the first box with 12 trays raised, to the O.V.O.K. association, Parents of a Deceased Child. Just like the fact that Romberama always appears early, this is also a tradition. The Junifer red berries are auctioned under the quality label Prestige. “The fruit has a shiny appearance with firm and tasty flesh. It is a versatile berry variety with a slightly sour taste. The berries have a bright red color, so they are often used to add color to dishes," according to FruitMasters.
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