Chinese leaves are a 'home-grown' vegetable

The popularity of Chinese leaves is showing a sharp rise. This is a healthy vegetable which is now widely available and has some great selling points: impeccable Flandria quality, local and sustainably grown. Cold temperatures make promotional campaigns all the more timely.

Growing demand
The name 'Chinese leaves' is somewhat misleading, because although the vegetable does look like a cabbage, it lacks that pronounced cabbage-like flavour. It is a loose head of elongated, curly leaves with a wide, juicy vein. The vegetable has a slightly sweet flavour. Its popularity is enjoying a boost thanks to the interest in exotic cuisine and the trend for stir-fries and wok dishes.

Ample supplies in winter
The 2015 LAVA key figures reveal a handsome increase in production, and a sharp rise in sales (31%) of this vegetable. Chinese leaves are stored sustainably in the winter in chiller cells. Grading, cleaning and packaging happens on a daily basis. Young Chinese leaves are grown outdoors (supplies until week 24) and under glass and outdoors (after week 24). January, February and March are the main months for supplies. Weeks 5 to 8 are expected to yield between 20,000 and 30,000 units per week.

Flandria premium quality
Flandria-quality Chinese leaves are a premium product with a flawless appearance:
• Smooth, fresh cut surface
• Fresh green colour
• Maximum 2-3 attached outer leaves
• Carefully presented
• Free of flower formation and shoots
• Free of damage and bruising
• Uniform grading and presentation
• Well filled crates

Homogeneous grading
The standard arrangement is for Chinese leaves to be supplied in EPS crates. Other types of packaging can be supplied if the trade requests. Grading is by reference to the size and the weight per crate. Growers must comply with strict grading rules.
• Depending on size: young Chinese leaves (until week 24) with 4 to 8 units/crate
• Weight (loose per crate)
o 4-8 units: 10 kg
o 6 units: 5.5 kg
o 8 units: 4.5 kg
• Packed: 6 units in plastic sleeve per crate meets demand from F1.
• Chinese leaves are the perfect convenience food. They can be packed and supplied per kg for cutting plants and the processing industry.

Cool displays and correct storage
Create a cool presentation in the greengrocery section in a fresh colour palette with other Flandria winter vegetables such as turnips, parsnips, etc. and supply some tips for a perfect combination. Chinese leaves are best stored in an airy place at 0 to 1 °C and R.V. of 90-95%. Be sure to keep separate from products which give off ethylene (such as tomatoes, apples, bananas, citrus fruits, etc.). Advise your customers to keep them in the salad drawer in the fridge, or in a cool place.

A versatile vegetable
Chinese leaves are easy to use and quick to prepare: boiled, steamed, stir-fried in (Oriental) wok dishes, and so on. A stew of Chinese leaves with other winter vegetables (turnips, parsnips, etc.) makes a nutritious winter dish. Suggest that your customers rustle up a hearty winter soup or a simple combination with some scallops. Packages of the complete leaves can be filled with mince or a choice of other ingredients.
The leaves can also be enjoyed raw in a salad. Suggest using the inside part, because the leaves get more tender the closer you get the middle. Thin shavings give an extra twist to a mixed salad. In-store sampling of a salad made from raw leaves offers real health benefits.

Win over your customers
The growing popularity of Chinese leaves is also obvious from the cookery programmes, which are promoting them as a seasonal vegetable. Tap into this trend and win over your customers with some perfect Flandria quality and an attractive display. The current hype around healthy cooking provides lots more reasons to start getting creative with this cool vegetable in the kitchen. It contains high levels of fibre, minerals, vitamins A, B and C and calcium. It is also easy to digest, and low in calories (16 kcal per 100 g). Capitalise on these sales points on the shop floor.

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