A record-breaking watermelon bumper United Kingdom (UK) grown crop is on its way to Tesco supermarkets across the UK.
The fruit was produced by the UK’s biggest watermelon grower, Oakley Farms, based in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, with the guidance of melon growing expert James Cackett.
James Cackett, a fruit technical manager for Tesco, has spent 15 years working with seed houses and British growers to develop suitable varieties for the UK climate and soil.
Cackett said this was a massive achievement by Oakley Farms as their previous production record was around 5500 watermelons a few years ago, so to double that in two years is fantastic work.
“Growing watermelons in Britain is still a small and developing industry with just a handful of producers scattered around the UK.”
“When we started selling them, in minimal quantity, about ten years ago, shoppers were curious whether such an exotic-looking fruit could ever be grown over here.”
However, watermelons are now very popular with shoppers wanting to support British growers, and each year demand gets more substantial, so it doesn’t take long for the entire crop to sell out.”
Oakley Farms and Tesco have worked together on watermelon production for seven years. While the rainy July has slowed production, learnings from previous years have made this a record-breaking year in terms of volume.
The farm is the UK’s biggest producer of pumpkins and grows courgettes, both members of the cucurbit family, the same as watermelons.
Oakley Farms manager Nick Molesworth said the farm started growing them after Tesco approached us and offered to work with us on the project. It made good sense as the crop would fit perfectly between the production of courgettes in late spring and pumpkins in early autumn.
“We have tried several methods of growing the watermelons and are now getting more fruit per plant, so the hard work is starting to pay off.”
He continued that they are not easy to grow, and the British climate can be challenging, but Oakley Farms is very pleased with this year’s crop. Growing watermelons is a natural evolution for the business.
The watermelons are set to go on sale in x Tesco stores and will cost £3.49 each for the standard size and £2.50 for the mini size.