Machine Harvest Broccoli
New broccoli plant suitable for the industrial processing of heads and florets
This present invention deals with a new type of broccoli plant suitable for the industrial manufacture of broccoli heads and florets. This invention relates to broccoli plants producing a head that is flat, comprises multiple individualized florets and protrudes above the leaves making it easy to harvest by machine, allowing the use of heads and florets for the manufacture of processed broccoli and/or packaged food products.
Broccoli is a member of the Brassica family like cauliflower and cabbage, its botanic name being Brassica oleraceae L. var.italica. Broccoli is native of the Mediterranean region and particularly grown in Italy for centuries. Indeed, it was considered as favorite vegetable by the Romans, who initially ate a purple sprouting broccoli that turned green when cooked.
Broccoli has since been developed by selection and crossing to obtain varieties such as Calabrese (originating from the area of Calabria) or other broccoli varieties which have more and more improved qualities.
Broccoli is mostly marketed and consumed fresh; the part of the plant that is eaten is actually an undeveloped flower head hereinafter named head comprising many tiny buds crowded onto it.
Heads are harvested at maturity when they are an adequate size and have florets with a uniform green color.
Due to the architecture of the plant, broccoli harvesting is done manually when the head has reached maturity. The main stem is cut and the head thus obtained is cooled and marketed as fresh product. This manual harvesting is expensive in terms of labor cost and may represent up to 60% of the total labor costs for producing broccoli.
The use of mechanical harvesting solutions have been attempted but, because of the importance of leaf content and the deep burying of the head within those leaves, the jamming of the cutting equipment is an issue in the development of any mechanical equipment for harvesting broccoli.
Broccoli is mainly marketed fresh, as fresh heads. There is however a trend for individualized florets packed in bags in order to address a need for convenience and to provide the consumer with ready to eat or ready to cook vegetables. This kind of packed fresh broccoli florets allows the consumer to cook broccoli conveniently without the need to clean broccoli heads, to cut florets one after the other and eventually to dispose of non-edible broccoli parts. However, the cost of the processing of broccoli heads for producing individualized florets after harvesting is a serious issue.
Broccoli is also increasingly marketed as frozen, mainly in the form of individualized florets, either alone or in combination with other vegetables in ready to cook mixes. In those cases as well, there is a need to handle and process the broccoli heads after harvesting as quickly as possible in order to preserve all the organoleptic qualities of the product.
There is still a need for broccoli plants that produce head and/or florets that can be harvested and processed with the minimum hand-labor input in order to minimize the costs associated with the harvesting and/or processing of those heads and/or florets, particularly for the manufacture of individualized florets. This present invention aims at solving this problem and is addressing the need of providing a broccoli plant that produces a head that can be harvested by machine and florets that can also be harvested and/or processed by machine with minimal hand labor.
Accordingly, this present invention provides a cultivated broccoli plant having, at the harvestable stage, a head comprising a primary stem on which are branched secondary stems with florets at their top, characterized in that the florets are comprised within a plane substantially parallel to the ground.
Another plant provides an assembly of broccoli heads, particularly isolated broccoli heads, comprising at least two broccoli heads, each comprising a primary stem on which are branched secondary stems with florets at their top, characterized in that the florets are comprised within a plane substantially parallel to the ground when the head stands in the upward position.
The present invention allows a reduction in most of the harvesting and processing issues and costs associated with them.
Commercial varieties: Monflor
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