Weird and wonderful new 'microgreen' salad leaves could soon be on supermarket shelves, according to a leading grower.
Evesham-based Westland Nurseries said it was running taste tests on a variety of untried shoots including lemon and lime for the retail market.
HumberVHB is helping Westland secure listings for the leaves such as borage, which has a cucumber flavour and can be used as an accompaniment to Pimm's. It is also pushing a herb called perilla that is used in Japanese cooking.
The grower is hoping the new shoots will repeat the success of its young leaves of broccoli, purple radish and rocket, which are selling well in bagged salads for M&S, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose.
It also supplies a range of living microgreens under Sainsbury's Taste the Difference range for consumers to harvest at home.
"Sales of the Sainsbury's range have exceeded expectations, with the purple radish in particular selling twice as much as the others. We are delighted with the response," said Leon Mundey, marketing manager at Humber VHB
He put the appeal of young vegetable shoots down to their health credentials. A study by John Hopkins University in the US found 5g of broccoli shoots contained the same nutrients as 1kg of the mature vegetable.
Some buyers have even credited the products with cancer-resisting properties. "Microgreens have higher concentrations of nutrients and a more intense flavour because of their size and age," said Mundey.
Westland's work has already bagged it an award for grower of the year and another for innovation of the year at last month's IFE