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Broccoli

This Brassica favorite has been enjoyed in Europe since the Roman Empire, yet it only became really popular in the U.S. in the Roaring Twenties. Easily grown in fertile soil and cool, sunny weather, Broccoli is best grown as transplants, sown 4 weeks before setting out, 2 weeks before the last spring frost date. Sow seed again in July to transplant out for an additional fall Broccoli bonanza. Harvest the crisp, dark green florets with a sharp blade before the florets open, as close to consumption as possible. Avoid flower development, and harvest regularly to encourage new side shoot growth. Broccoli is best enjoyed raw, steamed, stir-fried or roasted to reap the benefits of its Vitamin C, dietary fiber and anti-cancer properties: any way but boiled. Listen to your body's Broccoli cravings. We adore it roasted in combination with quartered Red Onions, Brussels Sprouts, baby Carrots, Fennel, Cauliflower and black seedless grapes. Or, in Chef Gene Genarelli's raw Broccoli Pecan Salad. We've eaten it for breakfast. Deer resistant.

Average seed life: 3 years.

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Gardening Tips

Broccoli Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth
:1/4” -1/2”
Row Spacing:24”-30”
Plant Spacing:12”-18”
Days to Germination:7-15 days
Germination Temperature:70°-75°F

Like all members of the Brassica family, Broccoli prefers sunny, cool weather, though some new cultivars can be more heat tolerant. Broccoli thrives in moderately fertile, well-draining soil. Raise as transplants, sowing in sterilized seed mix, 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date. Provide even moisture, good light and ventilation. Transplant out to the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the last expected frost. A complete organic fertilizer under each transplant will keep Broccoli happy all season. Don’t allow young transplants to dry out or they may bolt (go to seed). Harvest spears where they emerge from the main stem using a sharp blade before their buds open. Side shoots form after the main head has been harvested: continuous cutting of side shoots promotes additional side shoots. Wait 4 years before growing Broccoli in the same location.

A New Use for Old Leaves
Brassicas such as Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and Cabbage benefit from a nitrogen boost. An excellent way to provide this—and trace minerals as well—is to till or fork some autumn leaves into the bed, the fall before planting. If the leaves have been composted for a year or two, so much the better.

A Swish in Time
The little green worms on your Broccoli are harmless--but not the most appetizing garnish. After picking, soak the heads for 10 minutes in a sink full of heavily salted water, then swish the Broccoli before removing it. The worms, killed by the salt, will fall to the bottom.

Let It Bloom
Nothing goes to seed quite as relentlessly as Broccoli. You are, after all, growing heads of tasty green buds, and a bud is determined to become a flower unless cool weather slows it down. One tries to keep up with the harvesting—to encourage the production of new bud-laden shoots—and to snip off flowering stalks promptly. After a certain point, the edible stalks diminish and soon the plant is a riot of yellow blooms. Tidy gardeners then rip the plants out and compost them. We like to leave some for the bees, who are grateful for this superior nectar source.

Shade Tolerance

Deer Resistant Seed Varieties

There are many commercial sprouters out there, but the old jar method works just fine. You can fit mason jars with a special screen or simply use cheese cloth stretched and held in place over the jar mouth with an elastic. Measure out the appropriate amount of seed to sprout (if you have a sprouter, follow the directions that came with it. If using the jar method, add enough seed to just cover the bottom of the jar). Clean, cull (throw out non seeds) and rinse seeds with tepid water before soaking. To soak, add tepid, non-chlorinated water, (3 parts water to 1 part seed) and let soak for the appropriate amount of time for the seed you are sprouting. Discard any non-seed material that floats up. After soaking, drain out the water: the seed should be damp but not wet. Put the jar out of direct sunlight, which could cook the seeds. Every 8 to 12 hours add enough water to cover the seeds and swish around to get all the seeds wet. Drain the water out, leaving the seeds damp but not wet. All sprouts need good air circulation, and a consistent 70°F temperature for optimum sprouting: cooler temps retard sprouting and warmer temps push too hard. Most sprouting seeds do not need light in the early sprouting stages but for the last two days before sprout use they should have some diffused light so they can green up a bit. Check each variety for the approximate days to harvest.

For the final rinsing, fill the entire sprouting container with water. Most of the Sprouts will shed their hulls or seed coats during this final rinsing for skimming off. Thoroughly drain the sprouts for 6 to 8 hours prior to refrigerating them. Store Sprouts dry-to-the-touch in airtight containers. Sterilize your sprouter between crops: mix a capful of bleach to a pint of water, soak for 15 to 20 minutes, scrub well and rinse thoroughly!

Countertop Sprouts Gardening