Brassica oleracea var. italica, calabrese
Sprouting broccoli is a variety of broccoli with smaller heads on a larger number of thinner stems than ordinary broccoli. The plant grows up to 80 cm high. It develops a strong main stem 5-8 cm in diameter with several branches. The dark green leaves are 20 cm wide and up to 50 cm long, and covered with a waxy coating. The plant is less prone to bolting in warmer weather than the ordinary broccoli cultivar. The actual vegetable are the flower buds together with about 15 cm of the stem attached to them. Broccoli is reported to be an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K. Flower buds need to be harvested before they open their bright yellow cross-shaped flowers with four petals, that shows that broccoli is a member of the cabbage family.
How to grow:
Sow 12 mm deep in seedbeds, seedlings emerge in 6-10 days. Transplant to single pots when about 5 cm high. Grow to about 15 cm, feeding with liquid fertiliser. Seedlings need consistent watering to avoid premature bolting. Transplant to a sunny or half shade spot into rich, lightly textured soil with plenty of well rotted compost dug in. Plant 35 cm apart. Mulch to keep the soil moist. Needs consistent watering.
Harvest in 16 weeks
When heads begin to form, feed with a liquid plant food.
Growing in the neighbourhood:
Likes to grow with beets, cucumber, onions, marigold, nasturtium. Doesn’t like climbing beans and members of the nightshade family (tomato, capsicum, chili, eggplant)
Pests and other problems and how we deal with them:
Caterpillars of butterflies, especially the white cabbage butterfly are pests on sprouting broccoli. We keep them out by netting the bed with a 5-10 mm net as long as the plants are small. A bit of leaf loss on mature plants is tolerable, if caterpillars take away too much leaf material we spray the plants with a bacterial solution that controls them.
All members of the cabbage family can be affected by a single-celled organism deforming the roots and making it hard for the plants to take up water. The problem is called club root and requires serious soil treatment. We try to avoid this by strictly rotating crops.
Early Autumn or early Spring, it does like a lot of sun, but it fares better in cooler seasons
Sprouting broccoli cross pollinates with other plants of the cabbage family. In order to collect useful seeds the mother-plant would need to be kept isolated.
How to harvest and use:
Cut the flower buds with about 15 cm of stem attached. Use a sharp knife and make a vertical cut, so water can run of this cut. The plant will produce secondary shoots in short time. Once the plant doesn’t produce flowers buds anymore the leaves are stripped off the thick stalks. Together with all material that can be cut into small pieces they go to the compost. The remaining thick stalks are transferred to the native garden to rot.
Sprouting broccoli can be used as ordinary broccoli is. Blanched very briefly and served with butter and almonds or a blue-cheese sauce are classics. It works well in quiches.