GENERATIONS OF DEDICATED GROWING
Martin and his son Ted are the third and fourth generation of the Sanders family to be growing Purple Sprouting. What started out as a few rows of his grandfather’s mixed arable farm - 200 acres spread across the Worcestershire countryside - has, under Martin’s single-minded vision, developed into 150 acres of an exceptional crop.
Each generation has added their own touch of artistry to the growing process. Martin’s uncle, Tony Sanders, was the first generation to save his own seeds. Walking through the fields at the peak of the season, he would select his best performing plants and move them into a greenhouse. Using a paintbrush, Tony would painstakingly transfer pollen from one flowering plant to another, capturing the physical characteristics that he valued most: multiple sideshoots, deep purple heads and a tender, leafy stalk. By nature, these plants were best adapted to the sandy soil and mild climate of the region.
Martin and Ted have upheld this rigorous selection but with an updated, natural method of pollination. The paintbrush has been replaced by flies, which Ted raises from maggots in the polytunnels.
COMMITMENT TO QUALITY
Producing their own seeds is the foundation for exceptional broccoli, but there is a daily selection process, upheld by both the family and their small team of pickers, that sets their crop apart.
Where industrial growers would use a machine to harvest a whole field, regardless of the variations in quality, Martin’s team handpick each individual stalk. On average they pick between 60 and 80% of the available broccoli in their fields, leaving behind any woody, thin or bare stalks. Even when weather conditions such as a harsh frost or unseasonal warmth impact on his yield, reducing it to as low as 40% of a field, Martin refuses to lower his standards for quality. Tellingly, he’ll receive calls from industrial growers offering to harvest the remaining broccoli, which they’ll then sell into supermarkets at a low price.
WHITE SPROUTING - A NEW VENTURE
By the time Ted joined the family business, the Sanders had been saving their own Purple Sprouting seeds for over fifty years. With an ever-growing demand for their incredible crop, there was no need to try anything new - but they did. Sourcing rough seed from a rare variety specialist in East Anglia, Martin and Ted began growing White Sprouting. Coming into season just as the Purple ends, it’s an extremely delicate crop which needs exactly the right conditions to reach its full potential
Applying their growing artistry and seed selection to this new variety, Martin and Ted have refined that first rough seed into a delicate, fine-stemmed variety worthy of their name. The plant remains unpredictable - in some years the florets come up as slightly purple instead of pure white - but the outstanding flavour remains the same.