Production Director at Vitacress Herbs
20 Jun 2017
How our supplier created a fresh British herb revolution by accident.
Fresh British pot herbs have seen a meteoric rise in kitchens across the country over the last 20 years but the first pot herbs were produced by accident. In 1989 a member of our Salad Cress team placed a few seeds of herbs in a cress punnet to see what would happen. Within a few weeks the first basil and herb crops were produced and led to the sale of 1,500 boxes or 18,000 pots a week.
With increasing focus on scratch-cooking we expanded onto a new site at Chichester. It gave us a total area of 80,000m² and a total production of 20 million pots per annum. Today we now produce 18,000 pots of fresh British herbs every three hours. In the UK 50,000 pots are sown, spaced and sold 364 days of the year.
We grow 2.2 million pot herbs in a glasshouse the size of eight football pitches. The nursery where the herbs are grown generates enough electricity to power approximately 4,000 homes. The bi-products of heat and CO2 are used to help grow the crops. We also recycle all our waste water. We use enough water to fill 60 Olympic size swimming pools.
40% of all pot herbs sold in the UK are basil. The word basil is derived from Greece which means the king of herbs. However, in Scandinavia basil is a minor herb with Parsley, Dill and Chives being the most popular.
The Tri-Pack was created by our Head of Growing Simon Smith and is exclusive to Tesco. Simon started growing a pot of herbs with an added divider to allow the pot to be broken into three parts close to harvest without disturbing the roots. The segments can then be mixed with other herb types and put back together to form a single pot with a mixed variety of herb types.
One of the team at Vitacress saw the very first herbs sown and remains today as one of the growers 27-years-later.