There are some other options which we ought to know about when planting broccoli. A rather new product has been opened up thanks to African consumers who took the initiative of substituting broccoli leaves for other traditional greens which include rape, chou moellier, Chinese greens, collards, and so on. This is becoming a growing market as the concept becomes more widely accepted. Some farmers have mentioned that they may make more from marketing the leaves than they do from the heads. This product still has to be explored by many groups.
These leaves are usually marketed in punnets, where labelling plays an important role. This vegetable is probably equal to or better than Swiss chard as the quantity does not diminish to the same extent after cooking. Larger leaves can also be sent to the market while smaller leaves can be used for punnets. All this makes for a substantially higher profit per hectare. Another option, not very popular in South Africa, is side shoots. If side shoots are picked at the right stage it fits the bill, but due to the high labour costs in our country, farmers only use the main head. Many new varieties are bred without these side shoots. There is a tendency overseas to purchase broccoli as spears. Farmers can divide the main head into spears, but they should choose a variety that does not make a white or yellow skirting around the florets.
This usually occurs when florets are compressed, not allowing sufficient light to penetrate. The problem can sometimes be eliminated or reduced by maturing the heads. A safer solution is to use a variety with longer stems on the spears. These tend to make looser, flatter heads with higher yields as the weight per head is heavier. Broccoli stems are also highly nutritious and perhaps this possibility can be explored in future.
The broccoli industry is booming, as its health qualities are becoming more appreciated and advertised. The quality and taste of the newer varieties also contribute to the increased use of this vegetable. People are turning to fresh vegetables to help prevent cancer. In this regard, broccoli is the leader of the pack. So, by adding recipes, nutritional information and health benefits to packaging, business will be on a roll. – Bill Kerr
Contact Bill Kerr on (016) 366 0616 or e-mail [email protected]. |fw