Sunday, August 10, 2014
I love sprouting broccoli! It is a great year round salad green that also gives you broccoli. If you love the taste and nutrition of broccoli and are looking for a green that you can get leaves for salads year round, this is the plant for you. The most common use of broccoli is the flower, or floret, but the entire plant is edible. Its leaves do not get bitter in the steamy dog days of summer and it is hardy to below 10 degrees F.
I try to always grow vegetables and greens that give me the most for the space. Being choiceful on what you grow, allows you to have a whole lot of food in a very small space. Even if you have a ton of space, you get a lot more for your effort by choosing veggies that maximize production for the space. Less work for more food. How can you not love that??
If you want a plant that will give you a large head of florets, sprouting broccoli is not what you are looking for. Your normal broccoli takes up the same amount of space and gives you one head and they are done.
I personally grow Purple Sprouting and White Sprouting broccoli. They are biennial plants (lives for two years). You get small, purple or white tinted florets of broccoli after it over winters in the spring. The leaves have either purple or white tinted veining.
The broccoli head that you see in the store is actually the plant’s flower buds. You want to harvest the floret when the little buds are full sized, but before they begin to open (flower). Cut the large central floret stalk at a 45 degree angle to encourage the plant to produce smaller florets. A plant’s desire to reproduce is very strong; it is its reason for living. If you keep harvesting the florets, they will keep producing them sporadically after the first flush in April.
At the end of the second year, you will want to let a few of the florets mature and fully flower to produce seeds. You can continue to harvest the leaves for salads even while the plant is flowering.
These plants grow tall. The seed pack said 24-36”, but mine grew even taller than that in the garden bed. They can be grown in pots as well. Typically, a plant will not grow as tall in a pot. They also give you many seeds that are easy to save and replant. I just love veggies that you only ever have to purchase one seed packet and you are set for life!
We use the leaves in salads along with the florets all spring, summer, fall and into winter.
Sprouting broccoli can be planted at any time. The recommendation is from mid-April to late June to get a larger plant by fall. You can use transplants as late as September. A lightweight cover when it gets extremely cold in the winter will keep the plant producing leaves and protect it from frostbite.
The plants prefer soil with a pH of 6-7, rich in humus (compost), cool temperatures, and even moisture. Mine grew very well even in record heat and drought so ideal conditions are not a must.