CAST 2022: Part 3
The final installment of the California Spring Trials.
November 3, 2022 By Rodger Tschanz
This is the third and final installment in a series of articles covering different groups of plants found while touring the 2022 edition of the California Spring Trials (CAST). This article will touch on some of the new edible plants and food-focused marketing tools encountered on my tour.
At our stop at American Takii, I was shown a display of Asian Vegetable Greens that included a selection of their mustard greens, turnip seedlings and Pak Choi plants growing in pots. What immediately caught my eye was the packaging that was being used to decorate the pots. The display employed colourful red Chinese food takeout boxes as pot covers. What better way to package edible Asian vegetable plants for takeout? When inquiries were made about the packaging, we were told that American Takii was not in the business of selling packaging but wanted to focus instead on their plants. The packaging in the display was there simply to give Takii customers promotional ideas for these plants. I look forward to seeing something resembling this approach in the Canadian marketplace.
PanAmerican Seed has recently started a Kitchen Mini vegetable program that sees compact, container-friendly vegetable plants adorned with tantalizing ripe fruit taken home by the consumer to allow harvest fresh from the plant when desired. The program is aimed at the consumer who does not have room to grow vegetables at home. The plants aren’t expected to last much longer than four weeks once taken home. The marketing slogan is “No Garden, No Problem.” Buy, eat and repeat. PanAmerican Seed has selected approximately 14 different peppers and tomatoes for this program.
On the new release side, PanAmerican Seed has a new specialty F1 hybrid tomato called Sun Dipper. The small orange fruit have an unusual, elongated shape that allows for easy holding between the fingers when you dip it into your favourite topping. This tomato has a lot going for it – good flavour, attractiveness and high resistance to Fusarium, nematodes and TMV. The growth habit is indeterminate, so it is best grown in beds.
Trailblazer is an F1 hybrid sweet pepper that ripens to a bright yellow. The fruit is early maturing, has thick walls (great for salads) and a blocky shape that makes it ideal for stuffing. The plant has a tall, upright habit and is resistant to bacterial leaf spot. This is another selection that is best grown in the field.
Sakata has a track record for focusing its tomato-breeding efforts on disease resistance, improved flavour and colour. Dark red fruit with a high lycopene fruit have resulted from using the “Crimson” gene in their breeding. Three new, determinate tomatoes reflecting those breeding goal were presented at CAST2022. LaGuna Red is a salad variety that is well suited for cool weather fruit set. Rambler is another salad type variety, which produces super large fruit. In contrast to LaGuna Red, Thunderbird sets fruit extremely well under hot conditions. These three cultivars are suitable for production and sale in large containers or in packs.
Sakata also has some new pepper releases. Chaak is the first habanero introduction from Sakata. It has early maturation, two weeks earlier than a typical habanero. The fruit has good cracking tolerance and produces high yields on a strong vigorous plant with short internodes. Megatron is a new hybrid jalapeno that boasts dense extra-long fruit averaging 11 cm in length. The fruit has a good shelf life and a nice green colour. Lone Ranger is Sakata’s new serrano pepper with the thick-walled fruit reaching lengths of 10 to 12 cm. This fruit has a Scoville rating of 20-20,000 units, which is hotter than average for this type of pepper. It also has high resistance to bacterial leaf spot. All three of these peppers are compact growers and container friendly.
Histill is an Israeli nursery that specializes in lavender and herbs. Visiting this stop was truly inspiring if not confusing to the senses; the range of different herbs offered some unusual olfactory experiences. We sampled rosemary that smelled like ginger, mint that smelled like blackcurrant and so on. The plant that really caught my eye (and nose) was the Olive Plant. Its botanical name is Santolina viridis and the selection we sampled was Lemon Fizz. The foliage was soft and delicate looking and the fragrance from handling that foliage truly was that of olive. My tour group couldn’t make up its mind what it tasted like, but its olive scent and attractive light green fine foliage was enough for me.
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