Produce Grower: Why should growers look to a company traditionally known for its petunias for advice about fruit and vegetable crops?
Kevin Hurd: We’ve taken our expertise of finding exceptional ornamental plants that perform for the consumer and expanded it into fruits and vegetables. As with annuals, there is a flood of food crop varieties on the market. We want to help simplify the consumers’ choices to make it easy for them to find the very best plants to help nourish their loved ones.
PG: What does Proven Winners look for when selecting new Proven Harvest varieties?
KH: First and foremost, we select for flavor. If it isn’t the most delicious fruit, vegetable or herb we’ve tasted, it doesn’t make the cut. Beauty is a secondary, yet important, trait. Proven Harvest varieties combine both ornamental and edible attributes into one.
For example, one might grow Berried Treasure® strawberries for their delectable fruit, but their bright, double flowers carry equal merit. That makes them easy to showcase in container recipes like the one pictured here called Strawberry Fields. It combines Berried Treasure Red strawberries and Amazel Basil® with Superbells® Holy Cow!™ calibrachoa and Rockin’® Fuchsia salvia.
PG: Are Proven Harvest varieties trialed as rigorously as annuals before introduction?
KH: They are put through even more intensive testing than our annuals. In addition to container and landscape trials at locations across the U.S., each trial site has a tasting panel comprised of everyone from professional fruit/vegetable breeders to casual vegetable consumers. Yield, vigor and disease pressure as well as flavor, texture, mouth feel and additional qualities are tallied across all locations and voted on by Proven Winners members.
GM: How does branding work to the advantage of growers and grower retailer?
KH: The Proven Winners brand name means quality to consumers — it assures them that what they are buying is going to perform exceptionally. Even if they know nothing about growing tomatoes, they know that if they plant a Proven Winners tomato, it is going to be amazing. Plus, margins are far more generous on Proven Winners branded varieties than generics, making them a wise use of greenhouse space.
PG: What’s new in the Proven Harvest line for 2022?
KH: In addition to our strawberries, tomatoes, pepper and vegetatively produced basil, we are adding two new herbs for 2022. Pesto Besto™ is a sweet Italian seed grown basil that comes from the same highly respected breeder as Amazel Basil®. And AlliYum!™ garlic chives is both ornamental and edible, carrying a blend of onion and garlic flavors throughout its attractive foliage and flowers.
Seeds and liners are available for all Proven Harvest varieties with the exception of Amazel Basil which is sterile, so is offered as URCs and liners. Contact your preferred Proven Winners propagator for further details.