Broccoli

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Brassica oleracea

Sustainable Ewe favourites:

De Cicco, Precoce Romanesco, Purple Sprouting

Quick Reference

Optimum Soil Temperature 7-20°
Days to Germination 6-10
Days to Harvest 90 days from transplant
Direct Sow or Transplant Transplant
Distance Apart 30-50cm
Soil pH 6.0-7.5
Annual/Biennial/Perennial  Biennial

History

Broccoli, from the brassica family is native to the Mediterranean.  Descriptions of the plant date back to Pliny the Elder 23-79 AD.  The name, from the Italian ‘broccolo’ meaning ‘flowering crest of cabbage’.  Essentially it is a very large edible flower.  Introduced into England in the 18th century it was known as Italian Asparagus.  It was not popular in the USA till 1920s when Italian immigrants brought it with them to the country.

Gaining popularity, the consumption of broccoli has tripled in the past 30 years.

Types of Broccoli:

Calabrese – Large head, most common type.  Usually green but can also be purple, orange, white.

Sprouting – grows smaller florets, pick and pick again

Romanesco – also known as fractal broccoli it is conical shaped, light green, Suited to cooler temperatures

Crosses:  Broccolini is a cross between broccoli and kale.  Broccoflower is a cross between cauliflower and broccoli.

Growing

Broccoli is easy to grow except in the hottest months of the year.  In temperatures over 25° plants will bolt to flower, in particular seedling will need to be kept at a fairly consistent temperature to avoid bolting.

Grow in full sun away from winds,  It is plant that prefers moist, cool soil  A heavy feeder.

Mulch around the plants to ensure moisture retention and to keep weed free.

Harvest while the heads are still tight for the best flavour.

Frequently once the main head has been harvested smaller sprouts will grow for a second harvest.

Storing harvested broccoli:  Can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.  Best suited to blanching and freezing (good flavour).  But can be dried (fair flavour) or canned (fair flavour).

Seed Saving:  Is insect pollinated and will cross pollinate with other members of the oleracea family.  An isolation distance of 800 meters is required.  40 plants will ensure genetic diversity.

Seed Life:  Five years.

Maintenance

Feeding:  A heavy feeder.  Feed with Seasol once a month.

Check regularly for pests.

Fun Facts

Romans were very fond of broccoli, enjoying it raw, mashed with olive oil.

An excellent source of vitamin K, C, and B vitamins.  Also potassium, iron, folate, fiber and calcium.

China is the largest producer of broccoli, followed by India, and thirdly the USA (90% of which is produced in the Salinas Valley, California.  The first ever USA commercial crop was grown in New York)

The heaviest recorded broccoli was grown by J&M Palmer, Alaska in 1993.  It weighed 15.87 kg

On 18th March 1990 President of the USA H.W. Bush banned broccoli from Air Force One.

Problems

Downy Mildew – pale spots or blotches on leaves. Possible mildew on underside of the leaves.  Space plants to allow for good air circulation.  Weed.

Potassium Deficiency – scorching or burning on leaf margins.  Poor quality hearts.

Magnesium Deficiency – yellowing between veins on older leaves.  Add fertiliser.

Molybdenum Deficiency – leaves thin and strap-like, poor growth.  Add fertiliser.

Boron Deficiency – hollow stems.  Add fertiliser

Smaller heads than expected – cold weather

Bolting/Running to seed prematurely – cold weather followed by hot weather.  Root exposure

Club Root – plants stunted, deformed roots.  Add lime to soil.  Destroy diseased plants.  Ensure good drainage.  Crop rotation.

Pests

White Butterfly/Diamond Backed Moth – holes in vegetation in late spring, summer, autumn.  Protect young plants with insect mesh

Aphids – small insects clustered in developing heart or crown.  Keep plants well watered in dry weather

Slugs and snails – holes in leaves or stems in winter.  Digital removal (pick the bugs off), coffee grounds, ground egg shells said to be a deterrent.

Whitefly – underside of leaves covered with tiny white insects that will fly when disturbed.

Cover your garden with insect netting to avoid having your plants become a meal for caterpillars and bugs.  There are a variety of sprays and solutions (both organic and non-organic) such as Derris Dust or Quash available to combat such pests.

Companion Planting

Beans, Broad Beans, Bush Beans, Climbing Beans, Beets, Borage, Coriander, Cucumber, Dill, Marigold, Marjoram, Nasturtium, Potato, Tomato

NEVER Rue, Strawberry