Eazyleaf has a lot of potential. This loose-leaf lettuce is not only an attractive convenience product for the hospitality industry. Nowadays, there is a growing demand in supermarkets for pre-packaged lettuce mixes.
Paul Huijs of Enza, on the left, and Tim Hurks from Abemec, harvesting the Eazyleaf.
"Mechanical harvesting is one of the most important developments in our sector. The pressure caused by labor costs and shortages is making this even more crucial. That is why, besides our assortment of Eazyleaf, we also demonstrate how it is harvested," says Paul Huijs. He is the Full Soil and Leaf Crops Sales Manager for Benelux at Enza Zaden.
Using a band saw ensures the edge is minimally cut.
Harvesting, using the Ortomec harvesting machine, goes faster and easier. The band saw cuts the lettuce leaves off just above ground level. "This means there is a minimally cut edge which prevents fast brown coloring. This benefits the product's shelf life," says Abemec's Tim Hurks. This company distributes these harvesters. They can be used in the field as well as in a greenhouse. Recently, an electric version of the machine has also become available.
Eazyleaf has many variations and leaf structures.
Convenience remains a hot topic in the sector. Supermarkets in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, in particular, are very busy. They sell lettuce mixes and meal salads. Loose-leaf lettuce fits in perfectly with this concept. "Baby leaf would also fit in here. But it is finer and more delicate. Eazyleaf lasts longer. We are now able to offer plenty of variation in this product's leaf color and structure too," says Paul.
Cos lettuce is still a premium product in the Netherlands. In the UK and Germany, it is the second-most popular lettuce variety.
In the cos or romaine lettuce segment, there is a distinction between four lengths - the little gem, mini, midi, and large. “In the United Kingdom and Germany, the little gem and mini cos lettuce are currently at no. 2. This is just behind iceberg lettuce. The Netherlands is still lagging. There it is more of a premium product. In Germany, this product costs about the same as iceberg lettuce."
Iceberg lettuce is, by far, the lettuce variety that is eaten the most. However, the cultivation of this product is facing increasing challenges. These issues are being caused by climate change and stricter requirements regarding residual levels. Enza Seeds is very busy with breeding programs of high resistance varieties.
These types of lettuce are also tolerant to climate change. Enza Seeds does, however, consider Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) cultivation as a good alternative for full soil lettuce cultivation. There are now many, popular varieties available that do well in greenhouses. These include the Eazyleaf as well as other kinds of head lettuce.
Frans Gubbels, on the left, and Peter Conijn at the demo site in the greenhouse.
"Butterhead lettuce, Lollo's, Oakleaf, Coral, Frill Ice, Batavia, Romaine," breeder, Peter Conijn, sums up. "There are so many varieties. We actually do not breed strictly by variety anymore. We are developing many new types for a specific goal or target group."
For example, Frill Ice is a popular living lettuce variety. It is targeted at the Scandinavian market. These are harvested and packaged, roots and all. You can then store them for a week longer in the refrigerator. "People pick a few fresh leaves off every day for their sandwich or what-not," adds Enza Seeds' Sales Specialist, Frans Gubbels.
According to this company, NFT cultivation will become more critical in the future. "It is much easier to control greenhouse cultivation. You can also grow crops year-round. You can use artificial lighting in the winter. It is a clean, almost organic cultivation method. Very few pesticides are used. Also, up to nine times less water is needed than with full soil cultivation."
Enza Seeds breeding programs are, therefore, fully focussed on these new types of so-called low footprint products.
The Lollo leaf perfectly compliments a premium hamburger.