The European fairy tale of Jack and the beanstalk has made its way across the pond and is becoming a Canadian success story. First-generation farmers Jordan and Duffy Kniaziew are setting the stage to market their European Runner Beans to the masses. Currently they are grown in Leamington, Ontario and shipped to retailers across Ontario, Quebec and the northeastern United States. Future plans are to ship throughout North America.
Since 2013, the brothers have dedicated a portion of their growing facility to research and development aside from their current allotment for market supply. Growing beans which are twice the length and size of a typical green bean has taken several years to finetune. With every crop, a little more information is gathered in order to meet the growing demands of all-season production. They have spent considerable time working with seed companies to identify the right varieties for year-round harvest.
The long runner bean differs from the more commonly known green bean. In a garden, the cotyledons stay in the ground during germination and the plant is a perennial vine with tuberous roots. The vine can grow past twelve feet in length, making it ideal for a controlled greenhouse environment. In a short timespan, the Kniaziew’s have become the largest purveyors of greenhouse-grown long runner beans in North America.
“It’s about the wow factor,” says Jordan Kniaziew, who gets a positive response telling his story while travelling throughout airports. “Most people have never seen a bean that big, and from there, our conversation usually leads to how I like to cook them.” His go-to recipe is taken from the asparagus playbook. He starts by applying a healthy coating of olive oil, a light dusting of salt and pepper and then grilling them on the barbecue and finishing them with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Offering a wide variety of products under the Zing! Healthy Foods brand, the Kniaziew brothers are keenly aware of how colours appeal to the diverse Canadian marketplace. Their pencil-hot peppers are gaining traction with suppliers whose consumer base lean towards a more culturally diverse food supply. Marketed as “Spice Night,” the package features fine hot peppers in red, yellow and brown colours.
“Everyone knows a jalapeno pepper,” says Kniaziew, “and everyone knows a habanero, but we wanted something in-between in terms of heat. We feel we found that sweet spot, or spicy in this case,” Kniaziew concludes.