Consul-General Roosevelt, writing from Brussels, tells of the development of the hothouse-grape industry and the extension of hothouse cultivation to other fruits and vegetables. He reports:
About forty years ago the cultivation of grapes under glass was practiced on a small scale at Hoeylaert, a village near Brussels, more as an experimental venture than as a business enterprise. From the beginning the experiment was accompanied by success, and from its small origin this method of cultivation rapidly developed until it now ranks as one of the most flourishing and lucrative industries in this district. Today there are no less than 10,000 hothouses in the immediate vicinity of Brussels.
The hothouses are usually from 65 to 82 feet in length, and about 26 feet in width. Heat is distributed through clay pipes.
The principal varieties of grapes are: Frankenthal, a blue, medium-size grape of fine flavor and very juicy; Big Colman, an immense purple grape of attractive appearance, somewhat too solid and lacking in juice, and the Black Alicante and Queen Victoria, both acceptable as to quality and flavor. These grapes are sold on Belgian retail markets all the year round, at prices varying with the seasons from 15 cents to $1 per pound. In the last few years the cultivation of peaches in connection with grapes, has also become quite profitable, and though still practiced on a limited scale, has produced excellent results, the yield being first class in every respect.
The cultivation of strawberries, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, asparagus and chicory under glass is also carried on in this district by syndicates, which regulate production as well as prices. Grapes grown in this consular district are exported largely to England, Germany, Russia and Denmark, and occasionally in small quantities to the United States.