Thursday, June 2, 2011


I was showing my 10 year-old nephew around the garden:

Me:  "...and this is broccoli."
Him: "You're growing BROCCOLI? WHY?!?"
Me:  "Because it has a really nice flavour."

Yes, broccoli can actually have flavour. The stuff from the shop does have some broccoli-ish flavour, despite the denials of the boy who refuses to eat anything coloured green. But as usual you need to try the home-grown variety to appreciate how tasty it can really be. Also, like many other vegetables, the varieties best suited to growing at home are not those grown commercially.

Calibrese sprouting broccoli.
You can grow varieties that take months to produce a single large head, like you see in the supermarket. But it's probably more useful to grow one of the sprouting varieties which grow multiple small heads. You can pick these off as you need them, and new heads resprout in a few weeks. This allows continous harvesting for several months. That's the idea anyway. I'd not grown broccoli before, so this was all a bit of an experiment. I received some Calibrese sprouting broccoli seeds as a seed club freebee and planted out a few seedlings in the garden late last Summer. They took a while to get going, and got knocked around at first by the heat, then the humidity, then the white cabbage moth caterpillars, then the aphids.. This actually seems pretty normal for members of the Brassica family (cabbage, cauliflower, turnip, brussels sprouts and the like) which don't seem to be the easiest vegies to grow and attract every kind of chewing pest you can think of. But after lavishing a little extra attention on them involving chilli spray and cow manure (don't try that on your loved ones) they bounced back and began producing the most flavoursome heads we'd ever tasted.
Central head ready to pick.
After picking the central heads, which have thicker stems, taller and narrower heads sprout from around the bases of surrounding leaves. The stems of the new heads are much thinner and can be quite stringy. I tried to eat them but it was actually like trying to eat string.
Extra sprouted heads, destined for the yellow collection bucket.
In case you'd never really looked closely at broccoli before, the heads are actually just big bunches of immature florets, or flower buds. If you don't pick them in time, they turn into pretty yellow flowers. You can just eat them with the rest of the broccoli if you like.
Attractive, edible flowers.
I understand it's best to keep picking them before they flower though, to keep new heads growing. In any case, it's sure made a handsome addition to the Front Yard Farm. I've planted a few more seedlings of a different variety (Waltham) to replace the current crop and keep us in tasty green veg well into next Spring. At least until the bugs return.
Broccoli beautifying the streetscape.

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