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SA farmer wants local Witlof available throughout the year

Jan 26 2017 16:53
Carin Smith

Cape Town - Despite it being a difficult vegetable to grow, a Western Cape farmer is aiming to have locally produced Witlof (chicory leaf) available in SA throughout the year.

Fanie van der Merwe, managing director of Bronaar, situated near Ceres, explained that a two-step growing process is required before this vegetable (also known as Belgian Endive or Witloof) is ready to be harvested. He told Fin24 that he wants to increase local interest in the vegetable.

Witlof is related to the chicory family that includes radicchio escarole, frisee lettuce as well as the curly endive. It can be eaten cooked or raw, warm or cold. It was first introduced in Belgium in 1846. Although it was also grown in South Africa later on, the vegetable has been mostly imported.

Because of the challenges to grow Witlof, it has not been sustainably produced in SA up to now. Bronaar has, therefore, invested R7m in a specialised Witlof growing facility. The facility can handle all the technical intricacies of growing Witlof. It is grown hydroponically and in the dark to avoid the development of chlorophyll, which ensures the leaf’s creamy white appearance.

Since 2007, 28% of the Bronaar business is owned by staff, making it a B-BBEE business.

Van der Merwe told Fin24 Witlof is versatile and has a unique taste. It makes a "perfect little boat shape" which can be filled with something.

“We are excited about giving people all over SA the opportunity to enjoy Witlof more often and to become familiar with this exceptional new low-carbohydrate vegetable, which is high in fibre and delivers 10% of the recommended daily intake of Folate along with a host of health enhancing vitamins, minerals and antioxidants,” explained Van der Merwe.

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western cape  |  agribusiness  |  agriculture

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