Flourishing with colour, easy to cut and with fewer labour requirements, Eazyleaf lettuce ticks all the right boxes for growers and consumers alike as one of Enza Zaden’s fastest-growing segments in the USA.
Comprised of a mix of red and green colors, Eazyleaf is named after the convenience its lettuce varieties are known for, including leaves that are easily cut into crispy and consistent fractal shapes.
“The Eazyleaf product gives you the option to mechanise salad production. It’s grown in the field, there’s one cut, then it’s washed, can be bagged, and it’s ready to go,” explains Ettienne Schultz, Product Specialist at Enza Zaden.
“There’s no extra handling, Eazyleaf has uniformity and it’s reliable. It’s a quality product that always looks the same in the bag,” he shares. “With Eazyleaf, you don’t have varying results with difference growers and processes, so it takes away some of the steps between the consumer and the producer.”
Anh Nguyen, Portfolio Manager at Enza Zaden, says yield and resistance to pests and disease are fundamental parts of the Eazyleaf breeding program, along with added traits such as a 3D shape that makes processing easier and implies a firmer shape. “When we look at how we can make it more attractive to consumers, that’s when we really think about the 3D shape and how the lettuce tastes different,” says Nguyen. “Because it has the upright shape it’s very easy for harvesting – after one cut the leaves fall out as the same size as the next, and there is less risk of rotten leaves that touch the soil. In the end the quality in stores is much better.”
Enza Zaden has a post-harvest research team to analyse and enhance taste of lettuce as well as shelf-life tests. Nguyen highlights Eazyleaf is suitable for mixed salad with its different colors, and retailers often comment on the product’s great shelf life. This partly comes from breeding for smaller cutting surfaces such as stems, thus reducing the level of oxidation or the chance of pinking.
Schultz explains the company has come a long way over the past 10 years developing varieties with a blush of red – varying in percentages from 30 to 80 per cent depending on a grower’s preferences – but always ensuring it will taste delicious. “American consumers look for convenience, so we do whatever is easiest for the family. We’re all time-constrained and we want everything to be easy and relaxed,” he says.
A lot of the Eazyleaf lettuce varieties have spiky or incise leaves, but diversity is at the core of its approach with different shapes, colors and tastes making for an appealing option at retail and foodservice. Nguyen says popular varieties include Ezrilla, Burgandy, Rhone and Molokai. “For us EazyLeaf is probably one of the biggest growing segments of lettuce, and one of the biggest growing segments for our company of any vegetable,” says Schultz.