Merijn Vreugdenhil: biggest arugula grower of the Netherlands

Merijn Vreugdenhil (N X ao.2)

By: Van Iperen

Photo: Merijn Vreugdenhil

Interview met Lianne.

Together with his father, Merijn used to have a contracting company that was primarily working to grow radish, until one of his customers asked whether he could develop an arugula-harvester. He started working on it right-away: an old radish-harvester was rebuild as lettuce-cutter. In order to test the machine he rented part of a greenhouse and sowed it with arugula. “The request came with perfect timing since we’d been looking at adding something to our produce-selection for a while now.”

What is arugula?
“I had no idea what arugula was. I any case I’d never eaten it.” A visit to the local supermarket taught him that it could prove a fruitful venture. “There were various types of lettuce in those mixed-salad bags, but no arugula, which figures since arugula isn’t classed as lettuce. Instead arugula is a member of the mustard family (close relative of cabbage, broccoli, and kale). The official Dutch name is ‘kruisherik’. Among other places it’s been a popular leafy green to eat in Italy harking back to the Middle Ages! Time to give arugula it’s own place in the Netherlands.

By now the biggest arugula grower in the Netherlands
Merijn decided to quit the contracting company and growing radish. He could no longer combine it with the arugula operation. Nowadays Vreugdenhil grows arugula and spinach all year round in around 34 acres of greenhouse. “We’re trying to be able to deliver all year round. Not every year is as successful, but with the right varieties and the best climate we manage fairly well. Our greenhouses are heated, purely for keeping them free of frost during winter since arugula is a very delicate plant in that regard.

Planting and harvest
You basically sow it and, once the leaves are big enough, harvest it. For 2.5 acres you’ll need around 2.6 million seeds. During summer the growth is quick, occasionally it happens that you can harvest after 23 days. During winter it can take up to three months before it can be harvested. After the first harvest it will start growing again straight away and, if it’s not too hot, it can be harvested a second time.