UK-grown watermelons set for shops
5:41pm Wednesday 20th August 2014 in © Press Association 2014
A UK supermarket is to stock home-grown watermelons for the first time following a successful crop nurtured by a 19-year-old agriculture student.
Joe De Pascalis convinced his boss at S&A Produce, based in Marden, Hereford, that he could grow the crop earlier this year, and they will go on sale at Tesco this week.
It is a first for the retailer, which has previously sourced its watermelons from the more tropical climates of Spain and Brazil.
But Mr De Pascalis said the watermelons only needed artificial heating at the germination stage from a biomass woodchip burner.
Once planted, they received no additional heating, but were aided by the hot and humid summer.
Tesco produce manager James Cackett said: "These watermelons taste so good that we don't think shoppers will be able to tell the difference between them and the imported ones sold on high streets from Spain and Brazil.
"The sweetness level is very good and they are standard size, weighing between about one and three kilos each. We have chosen the varieties that are popular with shoppers.
"This is just a trial to see what shoppers think of them, but if the reaction is good then we will work with the growers to get more for next year.
"Joe has clearly done a very good job growing them and in doing so made a mark on British agriculture. His college and S&A Produce can be very proud of him."
Mr De Pascalis, who lives in Leominster, said: "I'm studying production horticulture and, as part of my apprenticeship, I have to demonstrate that I can grow produce from start to finish - overseeing every part of the process.
"Growing watermelons had never been done before on the course so I had to get special permission not only from the college but also from my boss here at S&A Produce to let me have a go. When he agreed I jumped at the chance.
"The watermelons have been like babies to me throughout the 90-day growing programme and I've personally tended to them three times a day to make sure they were getting just the right amount of feed."
The watermelons will go on sale locally in Hereford as well as in Royston, Hertfordshire, priced at £2 each.