One of my top sunshine superfoods is broccoli which is readily available and inexpensive. Here’s how broccoli journeys from seed to supermarket through its 80-90 day life. I hope Disney or Pixar coming across this and are inspired to make a film.
It all begins on a family farm: The Domenech Llopis family rent farmland near Murcia in Southern Spain. Broccoli grown in this region accounts for 80% of broccoli exported all over Europe. According to Proexport (the fruit and vegetable exporters association in Murcia) 15,000 families depend on broccoli.
Soil is prepared for planting: Soil imported from Estonia comes compacted and is broken down finely. A supa-dupa Italian-made generator parcels out the soil into small trays, and makes indentations for the seeds which are imported from Japan. One tin of broccoli seeds costs around €600 and grows 25,000 kilos which fill two big lorries.
Under the net: The baby broccolis move to an outside seed bed for around 35-50 days (depending on the time of year). Here they’re under a protective net which provides a 99% success rate from damage and disease due to birds and bad insects. The net also protects from wind.
Out in the fields: Fruit and vegetables from Southern Spain benefit from limited pesticides. Since 2006 Spain was forced to review its use of pesticides because of bans in the EU as a result of some desperate farmers importing nasty chemicals. As a result the country has led the way in biological farming methods, using bumble bees to pollinate crops, and good bugs to eat bad bugs. Fruit and vegetables benefit from all that glorious Mediterranean sunshine that lasts through the winter too. Sunshine and seasonal also means less need for artificial treatments.
Harvesting and packing: The old way of harvesting by hand and then transporting the crops elsewhere to be packaged has now given way to the Rolls Royce of equipment: a state of the art, efficient British-made truck-like and multi-tasking equipment that costs €500,000. As field workers slice off the broccoli from the grown plant, they place it on the moving ‘truck’ which has a conveniently placed conveyor belt shelf. The ‘conveyor belt’ sends the broccoli further along where it gets checked and prepped into the right size (according to supermarket demands) and then packaged and checked again.
From here the packaged broccoli goes into cooled lorries and is exported, taking just 3 days to travel to the UK and land on supermarket shelves. Any broccoli that doesn’t meet supermarket requirements on size and uniformity is exported for independent grocery stores.