Traditionally, most German greenhouses are empty at this time of year, but not at the Höfler family in Franconian Knoblauchsland. Because despite rising energy costs and CO2 tax, crisp mini cucumbers and lamb's lettuce grow and thrive even in winter. We spoke to master gardener Simon Höfler about the current greenhouse season and the current challenges in protected cultivation.
Satisfying cucumber yields
Since the end of November, the innovative vegetable grower has been harvesting mini-cucumbers which are produced under artificial lighting. "The yields are constant with good quality". Also, in terms of marketing, we can not complain, because at Christmas and New Year's Eve we were able to market our goods well. At the moment, there are still numerous promotions in regional food retailing, which is why sales are still running at full speed after the turn of the year," explains Höfler.
Mini cucumbers in a high-tech greenhouse in the heart of Knoblauchsland
Höfler Gemüse supplies the Bavarian food retail trade with cucumbers during the cold season. The goods are marketed mainly through Franken Gemüse e.G., and the Höfler family also operates a stand at the Nuremberg wholesale market. Höfler: "The currently harvested crop was planted in November. Crop end is planned for the end of March."
Tight supply situation for lamb's lettuce
Parallel to the mini cucumber harvest, crisp lamb's lettuce from protected cultivation has been available since the end of November. A continuous supply could be guaranteed so far. "Due to a lack of sunshine hours, we were too short of regional lamb's lettuce to meet the high demand. Because of this, we've had to pick proportionately more small-caliber produce to reasonably meet demand."
Right: Cucumbers under artificial lighting
In line with the shortage of produce, Belgian lamb's lettuces were priced at 18 euros/crate at the local wholesale market. "We have kept our wholesale prices stable at 12 euros/crate all this time. Belgian prices have now dropped to 7-8 euros/crate: That's where the regular customer honors our price policy and now mainly stays with our goods," Höfler says about the current price fluctuations.
Last week, the last field lettuces were planted, and depending on the weather, the last greenhouse batches will be harvested in March. After that, the first batches from outdoor cultivation usually hit the market.
Franconian ginger meets with high response
In addition to the usual market crops, Höfler has also been dedicating itself to ginger cultivation since 2020. The response so far has been tremendous, he confirms. "So that we can increase our production in line with the growing demand, we built new foil tunnels last year." If the weather cooperates to some extent, Franconian ginger will be available again from mid-August to the end of November."
Images: Michael Böllet (www.michaelboellet.de)