Aubergines are often associated with southern countries such as Turkey, Spain and Italy where the majority of growers are located. However, the aubergine seems to be flourishing at Jurgen Franco and Nancy Verstegen’s company in Snellegem. They firmly believe in the future of their shiny purple aubergines that they grow in 5.5 hectares of greenhouses.
From father to son
"My father started growing tomatoes in greenhouses on a very small scale in 1970. In 1999 our crop was hit by disease. We were faced with a choice: start again from scratch or start with a new crop. At the time the aubergine was still a fairly unknown crop here. In short, an untapped market. The Belgian production covered 12 ha in total. Our 3.5 ha represented a substantial increase. In 2017 we added 2 ha of greenhouses. Today, the production in Belgium covers a surface area of 30 ha.”
"Aubergines are grown in a pot on the rootstock of a tomato since that is stronger than the rootstock of an aubergine. Harvesting starts in February and ends mid November.
An aubergine is a very tactile fruit, it calls out to be stroked. If you want to know whether an aubergine is fresh, simply weigh it in your hand: it must feel heavy.
Bumblebees do delicate work here since they take care of the pollination. Trap crops between the rows of crops show us which pests are present and which useful insects we need to use against them. We’re lucky since the pests only eat the leaves and do not touch the fruit. We work in a purely organic way and do not spray any chemicals.”
From field to auction
"From February to November we harvest the largest fruits every day. The aubergines are then sorted by weight in the warehouse before being packed in 3 kg crates or 5 kg boxes. Belgian retailers prefer aubergines that weigh between 225 and 300 g each, whilst the French prefer slightly heavier fruit. Our aubergines are sold at the BelOrta auction. We go to the auction every day, sometimes even twice a day.”
FLANDRIA AUBERGINES ARE AVAILABLE FROM BELORTA AND REO VEILING.