Broccoli is a nutritious green crop, belonging to the cabbage family. Literally, the word broccoli originates from the Italian plural word, “broccolo” meaning, “the blooming top of cabbage” and the petite form is Brocco, which means “a sprout”. You can consume the immense flowering head steamed or you can even consume raw as they are rich in vitamins.
Broccoli falls under the cultivar group of Italy, under the class Brassica oleracea. It bears immense green colored flower heads, organized in a tree like format, on the branches growing from heavy edible twigs. The center of the flower heads is surrounded all around by leaves like cauliflower.
From time immemorial, Broccoli has maintained the status of a valuable crop among the Italians. Peter Scheemakers carried it to England during the 18th century from Antwerp. Even through Italian immigrants brought broccoli to the United States, it was not much popular till the 1920s.
GROWING AT HOME
Soil for Planting
Ideal conditions for growing broccoli are luminous, fertile and hydrated soil, sparsely acidic in nature. Use 2-4 inches of a bloated layer of manure, before sowing. In order to plant the seeds in spring, relocate the seeds 2-3 weeks earlier, before the final frost date of spring. The seeds require at least 10 days for maturing. For seeding in the fall, you would do better to do so at least 85 -100 days before the average fall frost.
In case you are planning for your seedlings, plant them about 7-9 weeks earlier to the tentative final frost. Ideally the seeds should sprout up within 4-5 days. Once the seeds vegetate, You should relocate the pots in an illuminated spot, having an average temperature around 60-65 F. Ideally you must not leave the soil wet, but hydrated. In order to avoid untimely heading, before relocating the plants, it is crucial to ensure the seedlings are in proper size: approximately 6 inches in height, bearing 2-4 real leaves. Before relocating the plants, it is important to harden them at for a week. The young plants should be set at least 1-2 inch deep in the garden. You must provide 1-2 foot gaps and 2-3 apart in rows to avoid tiny headings.
Consistent hydrating of soil is very vital, especially if there is drought. Even though a few varieties of broccoli can withstand heat, all of them need watering. However, avoid wetting the developing heads.
Temp and Humidity
Soil, having a temperature below 40 F is best for broccoli.
- After transplanting, fertilize after 3 weeks, and you do not need to cultivate.
- Mulching the soil is vital to remove weeds and lower the temperatures.
Pest and Pesticides
Aphids: When the leaves curl, you know that insects are attacking the plant’s sap. Application of soapy water on the sides of leaves will help in ridding them of these pests.
Downy mildew: Moist environment can cause yellow patches on the leaves. You should leave the leaves dry for better air circulation.
Cabbage Loopers: Presence of tiny holes, between the veins denotes caterpillar presence. Thus, keep an eye on the underside of leaves, and pick them with your hands or treat with Bacillus thuringiensis.
Use a floating row cover immediately after planting to prevent caterpillars. Cabbage worms and similar pests.
Harvest Month and Storage
Timing: Harvesting Broccoli plants as soon as the heads and the buds are hard and rigid before flowering. In case of yellow petals, pluck off instantly.
Before the soil heats up, pluck off for delicious taste.
You must take care to remove the heads from the plant with about 6 inches of stem.
Incision of the stalks, of the main head about 5-8 inches below the head is vital.
Usually, most of the species bear side shoots, which will advance even after plucking the main head. You can pluck from a single plant for several weeks, even from spring to fall in many cases.
You can store your broccoli in a refrigerator for 5 days. Thorough drying is vital before storing if you have washed it.
You can store and use frozen broccoli for 1 year.
‘Green Goliath’ can withstand heat and sprouts up side shoot, which helps in maturing for harvest.
‘Green Duke’ can tolerate heat. This type is especially beneficial for the Southern gardeners.
‘Calabrese’ is an original Italian heirloom, which gives rise to side shoots that help in maturing for harvesting. It is ideal for fall planting as well.
‘Flash’ is a quick-growing, hybrid plant which can withstand heat with ample production of side shoot as soon as you remove the central head. This type is also ideal for growing in the fall.
‘Paragon’ is widely popular in Canada.