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Broccoli Season Begins

9 February 2011


This past week I harvested the first two heads of Premium Crop broccoli. My knife slid deftly through the thick stem of the first head, reminding me how tender the stalks of garden broccoli are. Commercially grown broccoli stems seem tough and uninviting. With garden broccoli, cooking times are less–usually only minutes when steamed. 

Broccoli, thought to be a Mediterranean native, flourishes in our cool winter weather. In my garden, Premium Crop has yielded heads nine inches across but not this year. Very warm days can cause broccoli to bolt and produce the dreaded yellow flowers. The broccoli buds on my plants first appeared during our hot weather last month. I feared they might develop prematurely. The first two heads harvested are smaller, their size likely diminished by the heat.  

After cutting the main head, side shoots develop and can be harvested for many weeks. Though smaller as time goes by, they make good additions to salads and stir-fry. Production of side shoots varies by the weather and variety of broccoli.

Last year, I tried a second broccoli planting after side shoot production was disappointing with the first crop.  Warm weather came along and most heads developed to no more than three inches. Gardening is about experimentation.

Soon I’ll brew a barrel of compost tea and douse the plants to encourage additional production. I find this method easier than side dressing with an organic fertilizer in a tightly planted bed. My cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) are planted one foot apart and interplanted with lettuce. (See my January 27 post on French Intensive Gardening).

More on compost tea in an upcoming post. I’m waiting for rainwater to make a batch, but precipitation has been on the wrong coast. Vegetables, roses and struggling plants seem to love a good drench. 

Another oddity, perhaps attributable to our cool, wet fall: I’ve had no cabbage worms. Only a few cabbage butterflies were seen early in the season, but no devastation or application of BT required.  

Daily, the garden delights and surprises me.

Will the Chilean guava replace the blueberry?

The Objection to Being Stepped On by Robert Frost