Broccoli Types to Try
Large-headed varieties produce the familiar domed heads that are composed of numerous clustered florets. Many large-headed varieties produce smaller side shoots after the primary head is harvested.
Sprouting varieties grow into bushier plants that produce numerous small heads. These varieties are at their best when grown from fall to spring in mild winter climates.
Romanesco varieties produce elegantly swirled heads composed of symmetrically pointed spirals. These large plants need plenty of space, excellent soil and good growing conditions to do well.
Broccoli raab is grown for its immature flower buds, which have a stronger flavor than regular broccoli. Broccoli raab (closely related to turnips) is popular in Asian and Italian cooking.
Growing broccoli :
To grow broccoli indoors you will need some patience as it can be a fickle plant when the conditions aren’t just right. The good news is that you don’t need to worry about pollinating broccoli because the vegetable we eat is actually the flowers of the plant before they bloom! How crazy is that? Here’s how to grow broccoli indoors in a few simple steps:
1. For best results, select a container that is no less than 8” deep and 18-20” wide for each broccoli plant. Given the right conditions they can grow quite large and need a large container to establish an adequate root system. Fill the container with a good quality container mix and plant the seed according to package directions.
2. Water thoroughly and make sure your container gets plenty of light. If you are using an artificial light source, situate the container as close to the light as possible. When growing seedlings indoors for spring transplanting, I keep the light source about 3” away from the plants, so follow that same rule of thumb as the seeds are getting started for best results. Allow for 8-10 hours of light per day.
3. Keep the soil moist (but not wet) at all times.
As a general rule, you should be prepared to add 2-3 weeks or more to the growing time for any plant that you are attempting to grow indoors, and broccoli is no exception.
Broccoli has the same growth pattern as other fall vegetables. Broccoli grows best under cool, wet conditions.
As long as conditions remain good, it will continue to store nutrients in leaves and stalks. Hot, dry weather will cause it to head up prematurely, producing small, inferior heads.
Garden Preparation for Planting Broccoli:
When growing Broccoli, prepare the soil to a depth of 12-20” (30-51cm). Lay down a 2-3” (5-8 cm) layer of good garden compost or composted manure when you prepare the soil.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables grow best in soil with a slightly acidic to slightly alkaline pH, pH 6.8-7.4. See Changing Soil pH for tips on adjusting soil pH.
Broccoli seedlings should have succulent stems and large, green leaves. Seedlings with hard stems or purplish, stunted leaves have been too long in small pots and will produce tiny broccoli heads.
Broccoli Plant Spacing:
In fertile soil, broccoli plants can spread 2-3’ across, by 2’ high.
If you’re growing broccoli in a single-dug bed (soil prepared to a depth of 10”—25 cm), set plants out 15-18” (38-46 cm) apart, in rows 18-24” (46-61 cm) apart.
If you’re growing broccoli in a raised garden or double-dug bed (soil prepared to a depth of 18-24”—46-61 cm), set plants out 18-20” (46-51 cm) apart, in rows 18-24” (46-61 cm) apart.
With most vegetables, deep soil preparation allows you to tighten spacing between plants, but with broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, the plants grow larger and need a little more space when planted in a deep, fertile soil
Growing Broccoli requires regular, steady water, 1-1 ½” (2.5-3.8cm) per week. This is especially important during hot, dry weather.
Overhead watering in hot weather can drop the temperature around the plants 10° F (6°C), due to evaporation. This is great for young plants, but should be avoided once heads start forming, to reduce the risk of soft rots setting into the crowns.
When you’re growing broccoli, mulching is critical. A 1” (2.5 cm) layer of mulch keeps the soil surface much cooler, and reduces surface crusting and the threat of bolting significantly.
Broccoli is a heavy feeder, so even if you build organic soil amendments into the soil when you plant, it may need a side-dressing of compost, composted manure, or a good organic fertilizer like Dr. Earth Organic Tomato, Vegetable, and Herb Fertilizer at mid-season, before they start heading up.
Broccoli Plant Care:
Watch for signs of pest or disease problems early in the season, and intervene quickly to prevent more severe problems later in the season. Flea beetles and imported cabbage butterfly larvae can wreak havoc on small seedlings.
Once the plants are growing vigorously, watering is the most important task when growing broccoli.
Broccoli Disease and Pest Prevention Tips
- Leaf-eating caterpillars — including army worms, cabbageworms, and cabbage loopers — like to feast on broccoli leaves. In summer, harlequin bugs and grasshoppers can devastate young plants. Prevent these problems by growing plants beneath row covers. Read The No-spray Way to Protect Plants for details on using row covers.
- When insect pressure is light, keep plants healthy by watching them closely and picking pests by hand. Weekly sprays with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) or spinosad will control cabbageworms, the most serious broccoli pest.
- Plants that suddenly collapse may have been hit by cabbage root maggots, which are rice-sized fly larvae that feed on broccoli roots. In areas where this pest has been seen before, plant seedlings deeply, pressing the soil firmly around the stems. Prevent adults from laying eggs by covering the ground around each plant with a square of window screen or lightweight cloth.
Health benefits of broccoli :
1.Cancer prevention: Broccoli shares these cancer fighting, immune boosting properties with other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.
2. Cholesterol reduction: Like many whole foods, broccoli is packed with soluble fiber that draws cholesterol out of your body.
3. Reducing allergic reaction and inflammation: Research has shown the ability of kaempferol to lessen the impact of allergy-related substances on our body. Broccoli even has significant amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, which are well know as an anti-inflammatory.
4. Powerful antioxidant: Of all the cruciferous vegetables, broccoli stands out as the most concentrated source of vitamin C, plus the flavonoids necessary for vitamin C to recycle effectively. Also concentrated in broccoli are the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, other powerful antioxidants.
5. Bone health: Broccoli contains high levels of both calcium and vitamin K, both of which are important for bone health and prevention of osteoporosis.
6. Heart health: The anti-inflammatory properties of sulforaphane, one of the isothiocyanates (ITCs) in broccoli, may be able to prevent (or even reverse) some of the damage to blood vessel linings that can be caused by inflammation due to chronic blood sugar problems.
7. Diet aid: Broccoli is a good carb and is high in fiber, which aids in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar, and curbs overeating.
Broccoli Is Only One ‘Superstar’ Veggie
There’s no doubt that broccoli is a vegetable you should strive to eat frequently, but like most foods if you eat it too often you may grow tired of it or even develop an aversion to it. Fortunately, you don’t have to because there are so many vegetables to choose from that you can’t possibly get tired of them..
My best recommendation is to eat a variety of vegetables each day. My Recommended Vegetables List provides a guide to the most nutritious vegetables and those to limit due to their high carbohydrate content. You can also get creative with how you consume them, alternating whole vegetables with freshly prepared vegetable juice and fermented vegetables.
As an example, you can easily consume several different types of raw vegetables each day just by thinking outside the box for your lunchtime salad. My current salad consists of about half a pound of sunflower sprouts, four ounces of fermented vegetables, half a large red pepper, several tablespoon of raw organic butter, some red onion, a whole avocado and about three ounces of salmon or chicken.
You could also add some raw broccoli or broccoli sprouts, asparagus, garlic, tomatoes, celery, parsley, spinach, zucchini and so on. The key is to branch out beyond plain lettuce. Of course, you can also get creative with your recipes. The New York Times12recently featured several broccoli recipes that sound delicious, including broccoli, quinoa and purslane salad, broccoli stem and red pepper slaw and roasted broccoli with tahini garlic sauce. If you’re bored with broccoli, give these recipes a try (and do share how they taste by commenting below!).