Growing exotic and citrus fruits in Brittany, France, is possible. On his three hectares of greenhouses, Gilles Le Bihan grows pitayas, finger limes, aloe vera and many other products. He is one of the few in Europe to do so on his farm, “Les Saveurs de Jade”.
“We started four years ago with a pitaya plant,” explains Gilles. “It took three years to go into production. Last year, we obtained three fruits, but the harvests are starting to grow for the first time this year. At the moment, we are also developing all sorts of citrus fruits, including lemons.”
Generally, pitayas do not have a sensational taste. “But, of the three varieties out there, I grow the red variety, which has the most taste. I don’t know if there is a difference in taste between my pitayas and those from tropical regions. All I can say is that mine are tasty and sweet, and the taste stays in the mouth for a long time. In terms of health, pitayas are quite good as well.”
Biocontrol all the way
According to Gilles, it is not always easy to grow tropical fruits in the Finistere department. “But it is an interesting challenge. We learn by visiting exhibitions and searching on the internet. We manage.” Gilles tries to work in biocontrol, without any synthetic pesticides. “We discover insects and diseases we did not know yet, and we work on them. We learn a lot.”
A local market
The products of Les Saveurs de Jade are starting to sell. “I work directly with restaurants and small local businesses. For now, the goal is to continue to grow at this level. Then, we will target the bigger clients.” The pitayas and citrus fruits are marketed under the brand Pointe de Zeste.
Pitayas instead of tomatoes
Gilles used to be a tomato producer. He still grows some old varieties and cherry tomatoes. “But the tomato market is more and more tense. Today, greenhouses are big and costs are relatively low. Personally, I have enough with my 3 hectares. I try to differentiate myself by searching for products that are a little rare and different and that make us stand out.”
For more information:
Les Saveurs de Jade
Phone: +33 6 74 84 86 03