What you need to know:
- He grows the Heritage variety of broccoli, with the crop taking three months to mature. It develops best during cool seasons of the year.
- A farmer can have two harvests a year for well-tended crops, after which they are supposed to be discarded and planted afresh.
- Besides the diseases and pests, broccoli and cauliflower heads are attacked by birds and rodents.
- Farmers should also know the variety of the vegetables desired by the market and these include whether small or big heads.
Clad in a green overcoat and black gumboots, Samuel Muriithi is busy harvesting vegetables on his farm at the foot of Karima Hills in Ihwa village, Nyeri County, when the Seeds of Gold team arrives
Cabbages, sukuma wiki (collard greens), capsicum, courgettes, cauliflower and broccoli grow neatly on his two acres. On this day, the farmer is harvesting cauliflower and broccoli.
“These two are my best vegetables. They are rarely farmed in the area and thus are in high demand,” says the farmer, who went into the business six years ago, inspired by a neighbour who was growing the crops. He says broccoli and cauliflower don’t take up much space and are not prone to diseases.
“I started the broccoli and cauliflower project two years ago after growing the other vegetables for some time. To grow broccoli, ones starts with a seedbed and then transplants the seedlings to the farm after a month.”
Before planting, mix soil with manure and fertiliser to enrich it and plant. “When planting, use an intercrop and inter-row spacing of about two feet to allow blooming.”
He grows the Heritage variety of broccoli, with the crop taking three months to mature. It develops best during cool seasons of the year.
A farmer can have two harvests a year for well-tended crops, after which they are supposed to be discarded and planted afresh.
“This season the crop did not do well, due to excessive rains. The dry season offers best results once the crop crops,” says Muriithi, who used to sell building materials.
He sells the broccoli and cauliflower to restaurants for between Sh80 and Sh130, depending on size. But finding a market was not easy, because few people consume these vegetables.
UNPREDICTABLE WEATHER PATTERNS
“Broccoli and cauliflower are not your everyday kind of vegetables because not many people know them,” he says, adding that the vegetables are loved by foreigners, the reason his main markets are hotels like Green Hills, Mweiga Country Club, Outspan Hotel and several others in Nanyuki town.
The crops’ enemies include aphids and thrips and diseases like blight during the cold season and black spots, which can lead to massive losses if not controlled. Besides the diseases and pests, broccoli and cauliflower heads are attacked by birds and rodents.
Muriithi notes that unpredictable weather patterns are one of the biggest challenges to the crops, with rains causing diseases. On the other hand, the shelf life of the vegetables is usually short.
“My plan is to increase the acreage under the crops and grow them at various times so that I can harvest all year round once the Covid-19 pandemic is over.”
John Wambugu, an agronomist at the Wambugu Farm Training Centre in Nyeri, says growing the vegetables requires a farmer to have a ready market because they are not consumed by many.
Farmers should also know the variety of the vegetables desired by the market and these include whether small or big heads.
“The crops need plenty of water in the initial stages and the soil should have a lot of hummus,” says Wambugu, adding that a farmer needs to know about pest control and observe post-harvest intervals.
Broccoli is dubbed the “crown jewel of nutrition” because it is rich in multiple nutrients with potent anticancer properties and is an excellent source of vitamin A, potassium, folic acid, iron and fibre. Broccoli can be boiled, steamed or consumed raw.