The Op Die Berg in the Koue Bokkeveld area of Ceres is a known apple, pear and onion growing region. In the last two years and following a R7 million infrastructure investment, it is also the South African headquarters for growing of Witlof, the chicory leaf so loved by the Dutch and Belgians and now South Africans too.
According to Fanie van der Merwe, of Bronaar Farms, the famously tricky crop is now available 12 months of the year in South Africa and largely available through supermarkets like Woolworths and Checkers and grocers such as Food Lover’s Markets.
“If we had challenges growing Wiltof, Rooilof is every bit as temperamental and then some”, says Van der Merwe. “While Witlof can be enjoyed raw in salads and as “spoons” for drips, as well as cooked in soups and in the traditional Belgian way with ham in a cheese sauce, Rooilof is best used in salads or as a garnish. We are excited about giving people all over South Africa the opportunity to enjoy it more often and to become familiar with this exceptional new low-carbohydrate vegetable (3.3g/100g) which is high in fibre (3.1g) and delivers 10% of the recommended daily intake of Folate (B9) along with a host of health enhancing vitamins, minerals and antioxidants,” says Van der Merwe.
According to Van der Merwe, because of its high unit cost, Rooilof – with its gorgeous red veins in the leaf, is a luxury vegetable in the same way that artichokes and fresh white asparagus might be. “Like its Witlof brother, the second stage of Rooilof also sees it being grown in the dark.” he says.
“There are two reasons why Witlof and Rooilof are costly crops: the first is that only a very small percentage of seeds develop into roots suitable for the “forcing” stage. The second reason is that Witlof and Rooilof, also known as chicory leaf and Belgian Endive, needs to be grown in a purpose-built hydroponic and light and temperature controlled environment. The best news is that the leafy top or chicon, as it is called in the industry, and which takes 22 days to develop, is completely clean and free from soil or dirt of any sort.
Van der Merwe says that increasingly chefs around the world are turning to Rooilof as part of their plated presentations. “We currently supply restaurants through The Green Scene.” he ends.
Fanie van der Merwe, of Bronaar, established in 1743, is the 9th generation of Van der Merwe growers in Ceres and the oldest ongoing family business in South Africa. Since 2007, 28% of their business is owned by their staff making it a fully empowered B-BBEE business. As a major producer for the South African market and for export, Bronaar is a member of SIZA and also meets GLOBALG.A.P, Natures Choice and many other audits that guarantee quality and high global standards of farm practices.
Contact Fanie van der Merwe at email@example.com and at (023) 317-0729.