Broccoli is a brassica in the cruciferous family, along with cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, kale, rutabaga and others.
It is a nutritional superstar. Cruciferous vegetables are well established as healthy foods with cancer preventative properties. However, broccoli outshines them all. It is jam packed with nutrition! If you were only going to eat one vegetable, it should be broccoli. Of course, it goes without saying that you should eat more than one vegetable. While the florets have most of the phytonutrients, the stalk has most of the fiber, so eat the whole thing! If you don’t like broccoli, learn to like it, remember you can train your taste buds.. 👅
Broccoli comes in green and purple and assorted sizes. Some are more compact for container growing. Types of broccoli include headed, sprouting and branching. I am currently growing a headed type called Waltham 29. It produces a head and later sends up smaller side shoots. These are being grown in raised beds.
Planting: Broccoli is a cool weather crop. It grows best in the spring and fall.
For fall planting, direct sow about 8 weeks before your first frost. (seed mid-late summer depending on your frost date). Avoid the heat of summer.
For spring planting, plant 2-3 weeks before last spring frost.
Space plants 12-24 inches apart, depending on your variety.
Moist, fertile soil. They do best with slightly acidic soil.
Growing: Since broccoli is a cool weather crop it withstands some frost.
Broccoli is a heavy feeder, so fertilize periodically, about every 3-4 weeks.
Keep evenly watered. It is a big plant that drinks a lot.
Planting marigolds near the broccoli helps deter cabbage moths. Those are the little white moths you always see flitting about.
With many varieties, after you cut the main head, smaller side shoots will continue to grow.
Groundhogs– Wait, where’d my plant go?
Cabbage worms– holes in leaves, hand pick, use row covers.
Whiteflies and flea beetles– organic pest control
Aphids– suck sap from stems/leaves- get ladybugs, or spray with soapy water.
Nitrogen deficiency– leafs turn yellowish, add some nitrogen such as blood meal.
Discourage pests and diseases by rotating crops.
Harvest: Buds should be tight, before you see flowers. If buds start to swell or if it starts to flower pick it right away. You can still eat it but it may be a little mealy.
I water before harvest so it is nice and firm. Best cut in the morning.
Cut about 6 inches down from head on an angle to discourage rot from water sitting on the stem. Leave the rest of the plant to allow side shoots to form.
Limited space? Grow and eat broccoli microgreens (that’s a fancy word for seedlings). They provide even more nutrition than the full grown head.
Broccoli can be grown in large containers. At least 3 gallons per plant.
Storing: Do not wash before storing. Store in refrigerator.
Eat raw or cook lightly to preserve nutrients.