Purchase Broccoli Seeds
Eat your broccoli! If your moms harping turned you away from this lush green vegie when you were a child perhaps it is time to make amends with this vitamin packed vegetable (and your mother).
Broccoli has been in the news a lot in the past few years for its health benefits, particularly because it contains an anticarcinogen, sulphoraphane. According to researchers at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, broccoli, and other crucifer crops, are high in sulforaphane, an inducer of enzymes that detoxify carcinogens in the body.
And thats not all. Broccoli also has twice the vitamin C, ounce for ounce as oranges and is one of the best sources of vitamin B and calcium. Need I say more?
For home gardeners, the best news is broccoli is one of the easiest crops to grow. Frustrated greenhouse gardeners can have fun with this one starting it in a backyard greenhouse or cold frame 3-4 weeks ahead of planting time for an early crop of broccoli. It germinates quickly if started in a germination mixture containing sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite and perlite, placed in a warm grow house or even a south face window and kept adequately moistened. It can also be direct seeded right in the garden for a later crop. Broccoli grows well right into the fall, even after a fairly hard frost.
Broccoli is a prolific producer of dark green florets. Under favorable conditions, it will produce a nice head like you see in the stores. Slice this off with a sharp knife and let the plant keep growing. It will continue to produce individual florets right up until winter sets in.
Broccoli does best in a loamy type soil. If you have a sandy or clay type soil, amend it with well rotted livestock manure or aged compost . Work this material into the soil well before planting. Coax your plants along during the growing season with a little "manure tea." Prepare this brew by letting rainwater collect in a barrel filled with well-rotted livestock manure. Of course, you could also sidedress during the season with an all-purpose fertilizer such as 12-12-12.
There are a number of broccoli varieties to choose from. Comet and Packman are two reliable varieties and a couple of my favorites. But if youre looking for a variety with higher amounts of anticarcinogens, choose Saga.
A ten-foot row of broccoli will give you enough florets to feed a family of four with plenty left over to freeze. When planting, make your furrow very shallow by staking out the row with a string then simply lying the handle down on the ground under the string, gently pressing it into the ground with your foot. Presto! Your furrow is ready. Sprinkle a little seed down the row with your thumb and index or middle finger. Now cover it up with some fine soil and gently firm the soil with your foot or the flat side of your hoe blade. When your plants start to show a couple of leaves, thin them back a little then a little more as they get taller until theyre at least eight inches apart.
When you see a yellowish-orange butterfly flitting about your garden youll know the dreaded cabbage loopers have arrived. These inconspicuous larvae cling to the stalk of the plant and can easily go unnoticed. Dust right away with Bt to control these critters. Any dusting should be done at least a couple of weeks prior to eating the florets.
Broccoli is easy to prepare for the freezer. Simply cut the florets off the stems of the plant and blanch for a couple of minutes in boiling water. Allow the florets to cool before putting them in freezer bags for storage. Dont wait too long to eat them up. The wet spears are easily burned in the freezer so serve them up within eight weeks after freezing for optimum freshness and quality.
Besides its nutritional value, broccoli tastes great. But if your only image of broccoli is the kind served raw on a sad looking salad bar, think again. Broccoli tastes great boiled and smothered in a light cheese sauce or mixed in a chicken broccoli casserole. So come on! Give it another chance. Dont let this healthful, easy-to-grow veggie pass you by this year.
© Neil Moran
About the Author
Neil Moran is a horticulture trades instructor and author of North Country Gardening: Simple Secrets to Successful Gardening. Neil is also the owner and operator of Haylake Gardens, a garden center and gift shop in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Questions and comments can be emailed to nmoran(at)30below.com.