Student - May 28, 2009

A HOUSE PLANT TO SPICE UP YOUR SALAD

A decorative green house plant to use in salad. Five international students at Van Hall Larenstein were looking for new ideas for their business plan, and came up with this combination. They’ve already produced their first plants, all nasturtiums. They’ll be selling them at Wageningen market, in the Forum – and to Hanos, a big catering chain which they managed to attract as a customer.

VHL students among the nasturtiums they’ll be selling this week.
Although it is called the ‘East Indian cherry’ in Dutch, the nasturtium actually comes from Peru. ‘But in the period when it was discovered people thought anything that came from far away was from the East Indies’, says Loet Rammelsberg proudly. With his fellow students from Germany, China and the Netherlands, Roet is standing among the nasturtiums in a greenhouse at the PTC+ training centre in Ede. These second year students at VHL are following the compulsory HBO module on entrepreneurship. Together, they wrote a business plan that was approved by the Rabo bank. ‘The bank only had a few minor criticisms. They saw our plan in terms of a niche product, while we had bigger ideas’, says Piet-Hein Briet. The lads managed to get a loan of five hundred euros, and invested a few hundred euros themselves.

There is already one grower in Holland producing nasturtiums, but the students are the first to sell them as a food product. ‘In fact I heard today that the only existing grower is going to increase his production and sell them as edible too’, Loet says. Piet-Hein says the leaves are nice and spicy. ‘The aftertaste is particularly nice, and the flowers are slightly sweet.’ The greenhouse contains nearly three thousand plants, which will soon be sold in a chic little basket. ‘At first we hardly watered them because we didn’t want them to grow too fast’, says Frank Zhou, from China, who is responsible for growing the plants. ‘Our teachers were quite sceptical about that’. ‘They are strong plants, very easy to look after, so they are ideal for kitchen use’, says Guus van Buren.

For the time being they are targeting the Dutch market, but the students think the product might do even better in Germany. They think the Germans are more culinary-minded. In China the plant wouldn’t stand a chance. Much too expensive, unless you produced it in China’, comments Frank.

In spite of their conviction that it tastes good, the students are not using the plant much in their own food. Loet has used it in a salad. ‘Everyone thought it was very tasty, but I’m not a great cook, so for recipes you’d better look it up on Google.’/ Stijn van Gils

From today (Thursday 28 May), the VHL students’ company, IEF (Indian Edible Flowers), will be displaying its wares on the ground floor of the Forum. On 30 May, 6 June and 13 June, they will be at Wageningen market. Complete with a basket, the plants cost two euros.

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