71 days. Large, vigorous plants produce large to medium tight heads with a purplish blush. After the main broccoli head is harvested, Solstice continues to produce side shoots. We first learned of Solstice broccoli from the original breeder Jonathan Spero, an Oregon-based organic farmer and plant breeder. We have been really impressed with Solstice. Like most open-pollinated broccoli, Solstice displays some natural variability in timing of maturity, giving it an extended harvest season and making it perfect for home gardeners. Given the limited existence of open-pollinated broccolis, Solstice is a great example of needed innovation in organic seeds. Jonathan released the variety under the Open Source Seed Initiative. SRN
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Growing Instructions (for USDA Zone 5b):
Start broccoli seeds indoors April 1st at 77°. Days to germination: 5-8. Don’t let plants become potbound in their pots. Transplant outside May 1st, 18” apart. Or, sow broccoli seeds directly outside May 1st. Sow 3-4 seeds together in a group ½” deep, spaced 18” between groups. Keep seeds evenly moist until germination. Thin to the strongest plant in each group. Broccoli plants needs consistent water throughout the growing season. Protect broccoli plants from deer, groundhogs, and rabbits which will devour them. Broccoli plants may be eaten by European Cabbageworm (which is the caterpillar of the small white butterfly that flits around the garden). If they cause significant damage, hand remove caterpillars or spray organic BT.
Broccoli heads are the immature flower shoot. Harvest shoots while still tight. After harvesting the main head, Solstice will produce a supply of smaller shoots if harvested frequently.
Seed Saving Instructions (for gardeners):
Broccoli is difficult to save seed from. It is in the Brassica family so it is insect pollinated and cross-pollinated. It also suffers from inbreeding depression if you don’t save seeds from enough plants. Broccoli will cross with any Brassica oleracea that are flowering at the same time (kale, collards, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, cauliflower). Isolation distance: ½ mile. Minimum population size: 10-50 plants. To harvest seed, allow plants to flower and collect seed when mature.
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Domesticated in the Northern Mediterranean, broccoli (Brassica oleracea) is in the same species as kale, cabbage and kohlrabi, selected over many generations for it’s immature flower heads. References to what seems to be broccoli are present in ancient Roman texts, but the crop was long restricted to Italy. Present-day varieties have been developed principally from forms that have arisen in Italy in the past 2,000 years. Solstice is a type of Calabrese broccoli (the name comes from Calabria, a region in southern Italy), the broccoli most familiar to American kitchens with its large central head and thick stalks (there are other types of broccoli including “sprouting” broccoli). Although Thomas Jefferson included Broccoli in his garden at Monticello, Broccoli was very rare in the US until gaining prominence through the wave of Italian immigration in the early 20th century and did not become widely commercially cultivated in the US until 1920’s.
Solstice is the first open-source broccoli variety, developed by organic plant breeder Jonathan Spero of Lupine Knoll farm from a diverse population developed by Jim Myers at Oregon State University as part of the Farmers Cooperative Genome Project. Myers began the population in 1997 with 23 hybrid and inbred lines, some going back to his predecessor Jim Baggett, who in 1966 began a project to breed a Broccoli variety with an “exserted” head, meaning that the crown protrudes on a long stalk above the leaves for easier harvest. After allowing these variety to be naturally cross-pollinated by insects for 7 generations at OSU and in collaboration with several organic farmers, letting natural selection” weed out” inferior genes, he had a diverse genepool, which was then distributed to several breeders including Spero. After making selections from this population for about 10 more years, Spero released Solstice, named for its early harvest date (producing florets by the first day of summer when planted in mid-April in Oregon), and featuring an exserted head and numerous side shoots. Solstice was one of the inaugural varieties released under the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI - see Resources page for more info) ensuring that the variety and its genetics will remain unpatented and in the hands of the people.