Growing Broccoli & Calabrese
The name 'Broccoli' comes from the Italian word 'Brocco' which means branch or arm. Broccoli is the flowering head of the plant; if you leave Broccoli after cutting too long you will see the green buds turn into yellow flowers. It will taste considerably better if you eat it before it does this. Broccoli is one of the healthiest foods you can eat, it contains a high percentage of vitamin C, one portion is equal to the recommended daily allowance of this essential vitamin, and it also contains vitamin A and folacin. The florets are richer in vitamins than the stalk. It also contains phylochemicals such as sulforaphane that are believed to protect against cancer. It is a delight for weight watchers as it contains only 28 calories per serving. There are two types of Broccoli curding and sprouting. Whilst the curdling types produce white heads that are similar in appearance to cauliflower. The sprouting types, have numerous side shoots with tiny heads, these are purple. Calabrese is often called 'green sprouting' it is less hardy, with a delicate asparagus-like taste. When cooked, broccoli should still be slightly crunchy, this way it will still retain the vitamins, over cooking also ruins the texture of this delicious vegetable.
Broccoli will grow in almost any soil type that has been well manured. They do best in firm ground and benefit if planted in ground that has been vacated by such crops as potatoes, broad beans or early peas. If they are to follow any of those crops, the soil need only to be forked over and a dressing of fish manure with 10 per cent potash content at 4 oz. (120g) to the sq. yd. can be added, then the ground can be firmed down and made level. Unless the soil is already chalky, dress with carbonate of lime at 4 oz. (120g) to the sq. yd. It is important to remember that if a top dressing of lime is given, not to give nitrogen late in the season, as this will encourage soft growth and the plants will not be hardy.
Autumn varieties are sown in mid April but slightly later in the south. Sow winter varieties later, the spring ones can be sown a week or so after that. For very late broccoli the end of May should be fine. The time to sow is determined by the variety and the guidelines can be found on the seed packet. Narrow seedbeds are fine; they need not be wider than 3 ft. (90cm) Make drills about 6 in. apart and ½ in. (12mm) deep. The seed should be sown thinly, and then the soil is raked over the drill to cover the seeds and firmed over.
In the south seedlings can be planted out in June, in other areas it may be July when main crops are planted out. The rows should be 2-½ ft. (75cm) apart with about 2 ft. (60cm) between each plant. Plant them firmly, up to their lower leaves is best. Make sure that they are well watered if the weather is dry.
Using a draw hoe take out a furrow between the rows at the end of August or early September. This action will earth up the soil around the roots, which will help them from becoming waterlogged.
Growing plants at an angle can protect them from damage that can be done by early morning sun following a frost. It is a simple manoeuvre, which involves removing the soil to a depth of 9 in. (228mm) on the north side of each broccoli plant and pushes it over carefully with the head towards the north. During a hard winter, in February, give the plants a feed of nitrate of potash at 1 oz. (30g) to the sq. yd.
Cut the white curds as soon as they are ready and this is before they start to open up.
The plants are hardy and the heads if harvested before they are open are a very good flavour.
As for curding broccoli.
These are sown in April or early May in a seedbed similar to that for curding broccoli.
The plants require plenty of room for development, putting out the early varieties 2 ft. by 2 ft. (60cm) and the late 2-½ ft. by 2-½ ft. (75cm). Plant firmly and water well.
Lightly hoe the soil during summer but do not heel the plants over as for curding broccoli.
The flowering shoots grow out from the axils. When the shoots are about 12 in.(30cm) long, cut them to within 2 in. (50mm) of their base; this generally results in more shoots produced later.
Terry Blackburn. Internet Marketing Consultant, living in South Shields in the North-East of England. Author and Producer of blog http://www.lawnsurgeon.blogspot.com Author of "Your Perfect Lawn," a 90 Page eBook devoted to Lawn Preparation, Lawn Care and Maintenance. Find it at http://www.lawnsurgeon.com
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