After several tests, the “experiment” proved a success, and on the back of high demand from Chinese customers, he decided to try other varieties, as well. “I wanted to do something to stand out from the competition and provide value to Chinese customers, who are growing in number all the time,” Mr Domènech explained.
Today he grows and sells up to 10 different varieties of typical Chinese vegetables at the stall that the Sant Joan Despí Cooperative has at the Central Fruit and Vegetable Market. It is not unusual to see the stall’s exhibition area stacked with crates of local vegetables as well as others with products including bok choy (Chinese cabbage), bitter gourd (a vegetable that resembles a wrinkled cucumber) and long, purple Chinese aubergine.
Yet Joan Domènech isn’t the only person at the Market who has branched out into Chinese vegetables. The firm Frutas y Verduras Maresma has been selling them for nearly five years. They grow the produce themselves and also draw on a number of farmers from the Cabrera de Mar area of the Maresme. “We discovered these products at a trade fair and grew some to see how they would go,” says Maria Dolors, one of the heads of the firm. After many attempts and having first checked that there was a market among immigrants, today they sell around 15 “ethnic” vegetables typical of Chinese cuisine, along with produce from other countries in South America, Asia and North Africa.