Growing Broccoli

 

BROCCOLI

Brassica oleracea var

In its structure and general habit, the Broccoli resembles the Cauliflower. Between these vegetables the marks of distinction are so obscurely defined, that some of the white varieties of Broccoli appear to be identical with the Cauliflower. Botanists divide them as follows:

The Cauliflower has generally a short stalk, and white-ribbed, oblong leaves. The stem by which the flower is supported unites at the head of the primary branches into thick, short, irregular bundles, in the form of corymbs.

In the Broccoli, the stalk is more elevated; the leaf-nerves less prominent; the pedicles, or stems, connected with and supporting the flower, or head, less thick and close. They are also longer; so that, on becoming fleshy, they resemble in shape the young shoots of asparagus: hence the name of ‘Asparagoides,’ given by ancient botanists to Broccoli. It seems to be a degeneration of the ‘Chou cavalier,’ or tall, open Cabbage.

Sowing and Cultivation.— Broccoli is cool weather vegetable, growing best when daytime temperatures are between 65 and 80 F. Cauliflower is more sensitive to hot weather than broccoli. Broccoli is grown as a spring and fall crop, while cauliflower does best when planted in mid-summer for a fall harvest.

Both broccoli and cauliflower do best when set out as transplants rather than planted from seed. It is important to use sturdy transplants and that they become established quickly or the plants may not develop properly.

All of the cole crops grow well in reasonably fertile, well-drained, moist soils with plenty of added organic matter. Mulch will help keep the ground cool and moist. The pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0 for optimum growth. A pH within this range will discourage clubroot disease and maximize nutrient availability.

The difficulties growing Broccoli in this country arise mainly from the extreme heat and dryness of the summer and the intense cold of the winter. Whatever will tend to counteract these will promote the growth of the plants, and tend to secure the development of large and well-formed heads.

All cole crops are frost tolerant. Broccoli transplants may be set out in the garden as early as April 1. For a fall cauliflower crop, set out transplants on July 1.

Broccoli may be spaced 18 inches apart in the row with 24 inches between rows. Cauliflower requires a little more room. Set cauliflower plants 24 inches apart in the row with 30 inches between rows.

As cauliflower plants begin to mature and the head or curd starts to form, gather together and tie the leaves over the curd with soft twine or tape. This “blanching” is required to ensure the curd will be white and tender at harvest. There are some ‘self-blanching’ types available where the leaves curl naturally over the head when grown in cool weather. However, some tying of the leaves may still be necessary.

An even moisture supply is needed for transplants to become established and to produce good heads. As mentioned earlier, organic mulch will help keep soils cool and moist, and suppress weed growth. Hand-pull or use shallow cultivation if additional weed control becomes necessary. Apply 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week if an equal amount of rainfall does not occur. An additional side dressing of a nitrogen fertilizer when the plants are well-established may be desirable.

Principle insect and disease problems are the cabbage looper and imported cabbage worm, cabbage root maggot, aphids, flea beetles, blackleg, black rot, clubroot, and yellows. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for identification and current control recommendations.

Harvesting.—Broccoli should not be allowed to remain till the compactness of the head is broken, but should always be cut while the ‘curd,’ as the flowering mass is termed, is entire, or before bristly, leafy points make their appearance through it. In trimming the head, a portion of the stalk is left, and a few of the leaves immediately surrounding the head; the extremities being cut off a little below the top of the latter.

Varieties

 

Gypsy Broccoli (68 Days) this broccoli has a good heat tolerance and holding ability.
Marathon Broccoli (55-90 Days) Marathon has large, blue green heads that have a high, smooth, tight dome, with heavy heads and a very small, fine bead with a tolerance to downy mildew.

 

Packman Broccoli (55-90 Days) Good broccoli yielder that produces large, dark green heads.

Premium Crop Broccoli (65 Days) This broccoli has a high tolerance to downy mildew and has a good holding ability to distinguish this very high quality hybrid.

Belstar (65-70 Days) the most widely adapted organic hybrid, which has performed best for the spring and fall productions.

 

De Cicco (45 Days) this is a very traditional organic broccoli seed variety that produces a small 3 – 4″ main head.

 

Uses.—Broccoli can be boiled, steamed or eaten uncooked. It is used in many vegetable dishes and casseroles.

 

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