As we kick off the start of the Tenderstem® UK growing season, Stuart Cox, plant breeding specialist and MD of Sakata UK, tells us the story of how our favourite versatile veg came to be. The coupling of traditional broccoli and Chinese kale that gave us Tenderstem® is one of the most solid partnerships to come out of the 90’s.
“Creating new plant varieties can take decades of caring and nurturing, but the brassica team at world-leading Japanese vegetable seed specialist Sakata, had the patience, vision and skills to create a vegetable that straddled both western and eastern tastes. The Sakata team in Japan were looking to create a vegetable that would appeal to the eastern market: something which replicated the benefits of a light and fast-cooking stir-fry veggie such as pak choi, while combining it with western favourites such as cabbage and sprouts. This is when they came up with the idea of Tenderstem®, the happy hybrid. However, the Tenderstem® journey wasn’t without its challenges.
“It’s fair to say in the early days Tenderstem® looked like a non-starter. Highly labour-intensive, the softer, looser vegetable presented several issues for growers and farmers. It was only once the plant had been harvested and cooked that we saw huge benefits. Reaction was incredible and we quickly recognised Tenderstem® had much wider potential than just the Asian market. Tenderstem® has a mild yet distinctive flavour, is easy to cook and incredibly versatile, allowing people to use it in all sorts of cuisines.
“Food trends can be fickle, so here at Sakata we focus on long-term health, taste and quality benefits and products which can be sustainably produced. The beauty of Tenderstem® is that children genuinely love it, so it is a firm family favourite. We all know we need to be eating more vegetables, particularly greens, so we need to innovate and excite consumers so the food they eat can be enjoyable and good for them.
“Tenderstem® holds its own against the clean eating giants in an increasingly health-conscious UK, with enviable credentials as a superfood - one 100g portion gives you your daily requirement of vitamin C. Tenderstem® is also high in vitamin A and potassium and is a good source of iron, vitamin B6 and calcium. What’s not to love?!”