Friday, October 7, 2011

Broccoli Project Winding Down for the Season

One of the later varieties

These heads are not as smooth as we would like
Preparing samples for nutritional analysis
The 2011 field component of the East Coast Broccoli Project is coming to a close.  It has been a busy season with establishing the field trials, learning how to gather the exact same information across all the other sites, and timing our activities.  But we think we did a good job of it; didn't miss any deadlines or lose any data!  We have been surprised at just how much interest this project has garnered.  We have received phone calls and emails from farmers across the state who are interested in growing broccoli.  Yesterday we met with a local packing house to discuss what it would take to be ready to "go big-time" in the region.  We quickly came to the conclusion that farmers need to spend a few years learning to grow the highest quality broccoli and delivering it exactly the way the wholesalers want it.  While they are learning, there should be many local markets (tailgates, restaurants, and local supermarkets) willing to buy what they produce.

So what are the quality factors the industry is looking for?
  1. A consistent product.
  2. Dark green color.
  3. Very small bead size.
  4. Highly domed heads.
  5. Very smooth heads.
  6. Heads about 4 inches by 4 inches in size.
  7. Long stems.
  8. Product must be quickly cooled.
  9. Iced product is preferred.
So, don't expect us to be moving tractor trailer loads of broccoli from western NC in 2012.  That is a little premature.  We still need to identify the best varieties to grow and learn how to produce the quality, consistency, and volume the industry requires.  But next year would be a great time to get started.  Line up some local markets first, please.  And we will be looking for a few growers to conduct variety trials with us, too.  We are gathering the particulars on that right now.



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