This low-maintenance edible might just be the most power-packed vegetable in your garden. Broccoli is high in fiber, Vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, potassium, protein and antioxidants. It’s an anti-inflammatory, helps prevent heart disease, lower blood sugar and blood pressure, support eye and skin health, plus helps detoxify the body. Originating in Italy, broccoli is a member of the cabbage family and closely related to cauliflower.
When To Plant For Fall Harvest
Broccoli aficionados know that mid- to late-summer is one the best times to plant broccoli from seeds or transplants. In all but short summer areas, planting at this time takes advantage of the last warm days of summer to speed seedling growth, but allows the heads to mature in the cool months of fall. Broccoli can also be planted in early spring. Plants generally grow poorly when daytime temperatures consistently exceed 80ºF. Check with your Cooperative Extension System office for planting dates in your area. Mulch around plants to protect shallow roots, reduce weeds and retain soil moisture.
Broccoli lovers also know that there is more than one type of broccoli, something you may want to check out if you're planting a fall vegetable garden. Sprouting broccoli yields many small heads instead of one large one. And it comes in both green- and purple-headed varieties. Broccoli raab is a broccoli relative from Italy that has a slightly more intense flavor. It, too, is harvested when the florets are small. Try cutting a long section of stem (leaves and all) and sautéing with garlic or shallots in a little butter or olive oil. 'Romanesco' is an eye-catcher that produces swirling light yellowish-green heads that look like a piece of sea coral but have the flavor and texture of cauliflower. Chinese broccoli has a spicy, mustard-like flavor. It's harvested when heads just begin to form and plants are less than 1 foot tall.
Where To Plant
Plant in full sun in organically rich, consistently moist, well-drained loam soil. Generally, transplants (from home grown seed or from nurseries) should be planted about 18 inches apart in rows 2-3 feet apart.
Plants typically grow 18-30 inches tall. Harvest broccoli promptly as soon as the heads are firm and tight and before any of the buds begin to open. Cut the stem about 5-6 inches below the base of the head.