By Dave Harrison
Houseplants with great taste. A consistent upward trend in vegetable sales over the past three years. Last fall’s CanWest floriculture bus tour featured many innovations,
ranging from value-added packaging ideas to alternative heating
Last fall’s CanWest floriculture bus tour featured many innovations, ranging from value-added packaging ideas to alternative heating strategies.
However, delegates seemed most impressed by a new product being trialled, something that clearly caught their attention judging by the number of questions they posed.
Bevo Farms is widely regarded as one of North America’s leading propagators, and also finishes a fair number of plants themselves. The focus of our CanWest visit was to see their poinsettia greenhouses and state-of-the-art biomass boilers. It was at the end of the tour when company president Jack Benne and vice-president Leo Benne brought out their latest project, and that quickly drew a crowd. (OK, so much for my building suspense…) Bee Fresh Tomatoes is a new concept of fruit-bearing houseplants, in this case, a compact plant yielding up to 50 cherry tomatoes. Grown in a six-inch pot, the plants will remain fairly compact at about 40 centimetres in height (about 16 inches, to those of us not metrically inclined). They can be placed on windowsills, kitchen tables, on the patio, or planted in the garden.
The CanWest delegates were clearly impressed with Bee Fresh Tomatoes. Everyone took turns examining the plant and clutching the box. They asked numerous questions.
However, that reaction shouldn’t have come as a surprise. “Vegetables are hot again,” read a recent OFA Bulletin of the OFA – An Association of Floriculture Professionals. Writing in the January/February 08 edition, Jayson Ford, a senior product manager of seed with the Ball Horticultural Company, noted that: “Industry suppliers have seen a consistent upward trend in vegetable sales over the past three years, with growers and retailers also experiencing increased sales to consumers.” Ford quoted a 2007 Garden Writers Association survey that found that 34 per cent of respondents “expected to add vegetable gardens to their properties this year, and 12 per cent planned to add an herb garden.”
Ford also noted that “container-grown vegetables have taken off as well, as people with small suburban spaces or urban balcony gardens grow more of their own vegetables.”
I can well relate to all this.
Due to soil conditions and limited space, the Harrison household of southwestern Ontario does a lot of work with container plantings each year. Last spring, we proudly brought home a cherry tomato plant that grew to some 40 inches or so (for those imperial measurement-arily challenged, that’s about 101.6 centimetres). It could have grown taller, save for a freak mid-summer windstorm that toppled the plant and irrevocably damaged the main stem.
And this brings me back to Bee Fresh Tomatoes. It should be as big a hit with consumers as it was with CanWest delegates. And unless consumers leave a window open, exposing the plant to potential wind gusts, they should enjoy a full season of healthy snacking. It’s another niche product, another opportunity for the industry to win over more consumers to enjoy plants. Other varieties and veggies are sure to follow.n