The multiple advantages of innovative lettuce varieties: color, texture, flavor and shelf-life

Lettuce is one of the most highly marketed vegetables in Israel
August 19, 2019
The multiple advantages of innovative lettuce varieties: color, texture, flavor and shelf-life (Enlarge)

Lettuce is one of the most highly marketed/consumed vegetables in Israel, found in every household and included in restaurant and hotel menus. In recent years, demand for lettuce has increased, due to health trends as well as lettuce being easily affordable.

During the Open Day held in early July at Hazera's exhibition area (at Moshav Nir Chen), we met Oz Drori, in charge of the company's lettuce product development for the Israeli market who shared with us some of the lettuce cultivation activities.

Most lettuce in Israel is grown in open field cultivation. The two dominant types are: Romaine (upright) and Iceberg (round). There are additional types, which are grown on a much smaller scale.
Hazera, as a leading company in the Israeli lettuce market, aspires to offer innovations.

To this end, Hazera invests extensive resources in breeding lettuce cultivars of different colors and textures that will also incorporate traits of good flavor, extended shelf-life and high quality for both growers and consumers.

 

Oz noted the past year as productive in terms of development of lettuce varieties, and described to us the new varieties currently under various stages of development, which will soon reach the consumer's table.
Ofelia (by our sister company Vilmorin Mikado):  A Butter-Head type variety, very reminiscent of the Salanova that is familiar to consumers, which grows in open fields as well as hydroponic cultivation.

  

The resulting head lettuce of this variety is large and open, with very tender dark green leaves. The average weight per head of this variety is 300 grams, and the additional advantages of this variety are its high resistance to heat symptoms, and the possibility of wrapping it in Nespack.

 

Mona: An open shaped Romaine lettuce, with a very short core and lots of young leaves in the center. Its head weight may reach up to 700-800 grams in summer. Its uniqueness is expressed by a full, tastier and crispier fleshy central artery, and good shelf-life. With one slicing of a knife, we obtain loose, uniform leaves ready for use in a salad. Mona will only reach the consumer's table in another two years, once field trials have concluded. It's worth looking forward to!

 

Elongated Iceberg type: An upright, taller, crispier and fleshy type with Iceberg texture leaves. This type is a crop solution for farmers, since it is resistant to soil diseases, a familiar problem with Iceberg lettuce. Its greatest additional advantages are its flavor and crispness that exceed those of all regular lettuce types, as well as the design of its inner leaves. This variety can be grown in an open field as well as hydroponic cultivation.

Recent years have witnessed an increase in hydroponically grown lettuce. Hazera is developing varieties that are suitable for this type of cultivation, realizing the importance of this growing method: the plant grows on water, inside a structure that pests cannot penetrate, and therefore it needs less pesticides and has less sand sediments. Many consumers are willing to pay more for vegetables grown hydroponically in order to enjoy these advantages.

Among other things, Oz mentioned Hazera's excellent relations and collaboration with Strauss Company, a central player in the packaging and marketing area of fresh produce: "Strauss is considered the leader and groundbreaker in cut, washed, and packaged ready-to-eat vegetables, and they invest resources in promoting and developing products in which they believe."
"At Hazera, our lettuce breeders are striving to develop varieties that will fit the Israeli market and local climatic conditions. The same varieties they develop in Israel are also sold in other Mediterranean countries: Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. The local market serves as a stable basis for testing varieties, as well as a springboard for additional markets such as the U.S."

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