When sprouting broccoli is past its best, yellow flowers emerge from
the shoots. These plants should be removed from the vegetable plot and
put on the compost heap.
The disadvantages of leaving the old plants in the vegetable garden
to flower are:
* *they take up space
* *they harbour pests and diseases, eg. clubroot
* *they may not breed true (give plants with exactly the same characteristics as the parent.)
If the plants are left to flower, the flowers will be fertilised by
visiting insects, and then seeds are produced. The characteristics of
the seed depends on whether the parent is an open pollinated variety or
an F1 hybrid.
Open pollinated plants are varieties that grow true from seed. This
means they are capable of producing seeds from this seasons plants,
which will produce seedlings that will be just like the parent plant.
F1 hybrids – are the product of a careful and deliberate cross of two different ’strains’ and will produce plants that are uniform and have particular charateristics, eg very big sprouts, or bright green sprouts.
F1 means first filial generation.
Brussel sprouts are another brassica which goes to seed like broccoli. Bedfordshire farmers were once famous for the sprouts they grew and distributed to vegetable markets all over the country everyday of the winter. Each farmer had his own distinctive sprouts, which he had
developed over the years by breeding his own seed.
Each spring he would:
- select his best plants, with the traits he wanted in future generations
- these plants would be allowed to flower
- flowering plants were anxiously watched to prevent cross
- pollination (pollen from other plants not selected by the farmer, being brought onto these plants)
- no other brassicas were allowed to flower in the vicinity, neighbours with flowering brassicas were asked to remove them
- bees were closely watched to make sure that they had not found a hidden patch over the hill – it was a tense time
- the seeds were harvested and stored in a cool, dry, safe place to be planted the following year.
- safe storage was essential, to prevent loosing the excellent strain to competing farmers ( in our case, these valuable seeds were stored under my parent’s bed – we had a cold house!)