Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) is a cool-season crop that performs poorly in hot weather. As a member of the crucifer family, broccoli is closely related to other cole crops, such as cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
Fresh market wholesale options for Kentucky broccoli producers include produce auctions, local restaurants, groceries and wholesalers. Retail markets include farmers markets, roadside stands and community supported agriculture (CSA) shares. Kentucky’s location and climate also present opportunities for wholesale organic broccoli production. Per capita fresh broccoli use increased about 25 percent during the 2010s, from 5.9 pounds in 2011 to about 7.5 pounds per person in 2016. It was the largest five-year increase in consumption since the mid-1990s. Consumers apparently favor fresh broccoli over frozen, as consumption of processed broccoli remained about 2.5 pounds per capita during the 2000s.
Growers should consider head size, shape and color, as well as yield, earliness and disease resistance when selecting broccoli cultivars. Resistance is available for downy mildew, black rot, Pseudomonas bacterial head rot, club root, Fusarium yellows and yellowing in storage. Some varieties are better suited for fall production than spring production. In many cases these fall varieties will have some level of resistance or tolerance to downy mildew and grow well as seedlings in the heat of the summer. In Kentucky, fall planted broccoli has higher quality than spring planted because it matures in cooler weather, producing better heads that are more desirable and store longer after harvest.