Posted by Wayne Robinson

Sprouting Broccoli produce wonderful spearheads, which look similar to Calabrese, also originate from Calabria region of Italy. A winter hardy staple vegetable that will provide harvest for several weeks and with every stem harvested, it encourages further growth through to spring. Purple-sprouting broccoli has great flavour, a long harvesting season and is extremely good for you. A single portion provides half your daily requirement of carotenoids, plus high levels of folic acid and vitamins A and C. You can keep harvesting your crops from autumn through to early summer the following year. Purple-sprouting broccoli is extremely hardy, tolerating temperatures as low as -12C. Sow in March to harvest in early winter, or from April to mid-June for harvesting from January to May.

How, Where & When

Like other brassicas, purple-sprouting broccoli thrives in a fairly heavy, alkaline soil. Avoid growing it on an exposed site, where the wind will buffet the stems and loosen the soil around the roots. Plants prefer rich soil and sunny site to perform well. Late spring, start seeds where they are to grow in drills 3cm deep or in early spring start seeds under protection in seed trays thinning out to individual 7cm pots before settling them into final planting position.

Distance

Direct sown should be thinned to 30cm between plants and with 45cm between rows. Potted plants should follow the same distancing as direct sown.

Regular Care

Keep plants well watered in summer months and cover with netting to protect plants from cabbage white butterflies from laying eggs under the leaves and keep netted during winter months to keep bird pest at bay.

Harvest

Harvest when the flower shoots are well developed but before the flowers have actually opened. Cut the central spear with a sharp knife first as this encourages the side shoots to develop quickly. Regular picking of the sideshoots will extend the cropping time.

Nutrition

Calabrese/Broccoli is a great source of vitamins K and C, a good source of folate (folic acid) and also provides potassium, fibre. Vitamin C – builds collagen, which forms body tissue and bone, and helps cuts and wounds heal. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and protects the body from damaging free radicals.

Cooking

Yes Sprouting Broccoli is great when you steam it, but it also lends itself to many different recipes too…try making a Purple Sprouting Broccoli gratin…chargrilled with a tahini dressing, or add to any pasta dish with lots of grated parmesan.