Cultivating a Variety of Herbs at a Hydroponic Greenhouse
One of my favourite parts about getting to write this column is that I get to discover the best-kept secrets that only the locals know about. Local restaurant owners, bakers, and chefs have the inside scoop on where to get the freshest and purest ingredients and I am here to introduce you to one of the best there is! Tucked away on the south side of the island in Żejtun is a treasure trove of hydroponically grown lettuces, micro plants, edible flowers, fresh herbs and more; Renny’s Herbs and Salads.
Meet Renny Desira and his wife Nina. Renny built his first hydroponic greenhouse in 1992 by hand. Since then, his greenhouses have expanded and he now has several areas both inside and outside which grow indescribably delicious fresh salads and herbs. He is known to bakers for his fresh, edible flowers that lend a sweet and crisp component to the desserts. He is known to chefs for edible flowers that are not for baking but for more savoury dishes and we even got to taste flowers that taste like garlic and onions! He knows which flowers to pack for which chefs and has rows upon rows packed up each morning ready to be picked up and served that day. He said that many chefs will text him the night before and by early morning, Renny has packed their orders and is ready for pick up. What you are eating at these particular dining places in terms of herbs, salads and edible flowers are top-notch and harvested that same day if they came from Renny’s.
I learned about Rennys hydroponic farm from Sue, the Happy Baker from our Prinjolata interview. I continue to order fresh cakes from Sue for all of our celebrations, and it was because of a certain fresh ricotta and pear cheesecake decorated with the most vibrant and beautiful violet flowers that led me to meet Renny in the first place! When we went to Renny’s farm, he was so careful with everyone’s order keeping them out of the sun and in the best-shaded areas before they could come and collect their orders. He handled every flower and herb with such care. Excitedly, he took us through the many areas in his greenhouse where we got to taste micro basil, fresh flowers of all sorts of flavours and many different varieties of lettuce and fresh vegetables.
He turned the water on for us and we were able to understand better the hydroponic aspect of their growth. No soil to turn, just fresh, clean water. Under each individual head of lettuce and herbs, they are held in a tiny single pot and the roots grow out of the bottom and reach the water. It was such an incredible sight to see!
Here is the best news of all…if you read this and saw the interview and wondered if you could go to Renny’s for your own family meals, the answer is yes! He is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8:30am-noon.