The British vegetable industry is a lot more exotic than most of us realise. Aside from traditional varieties, we now grow our own red sweet pointed peppers, as well as chillies and sweetcorn.
Joe Colletti, is a director of Glinwell, in Smallford, Hertfordshire, who supply over a million Ramiro sweet pointed peppers a year to Tesco, says the business is a game of two halves.
'In the UK they can only be grown in the summer, due to light levels and temperatures. In the winter we grow them in Spain.'
Peppers originated in the tropical Americas thousands of years ago and today's sweet pointed are basically old varieties improved with cross breeding. Says Joe, 'Our Ramiros have been around for 11 years. There is very little difference between the way they are grown in the UK and abroad, except some countries still use fields, while the UK uses greenhouses, where watering and feeding is carefully controlled to give top quality fruit.'
Wonderfully sweet, Ramiro peppers also have a 'hammered' appearance to their skins. Adds Joe, 'We haven't found a variety that compares yet.'
So popular are they that Tesco sold 20 per cent more last year. 'One reason is overseas holidays, where unusual varieties are tried in local dishes, creating a demand back home,' explains Joe. 'I eat mine fried with potatoes, onions and olive oil, in salads or roasted with
their skins on.'
Joe's company, Glinwell, also produces a mini Sweetbite pepper and standard Californian bell peppers for Tesco, plus many other vegetables.