Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica)


Broccoli is a a hardy, small, annual or sometimes biennial, upright plant related to cauliflowers. It has a thick main stalk, from the top of which grows a cluster of tiny, dark-green, edible flower buds. The stems and leaves are also edible, but usually not as tasty or tender as the flower buds.

Growing Conditions
Growing conditions are similar to cauliflower, but broccoli are hardier plants. Broccoli prefers a cool, open, moist position, with full or filtered sun. It grows best as a winter crop and has become extremely popular in temperate areas.

Culture
Broccoli are adaptable as to soil type, as long as it is well drained. Moderately fertile soil gives best results. Nitrogenous fertilisers are important in the early stages of vegetative growth. A spray monthly is beneficial for the health and productivity of the crop. Plenty of moisture is required throughout the crops life. Crop rotation is important.

Companion Plants

Anise (Pimpinella anisum) has a strong licorice scent which is said to hide the smell of brassicas, making it difficult for some pests to locate the plants. Anise also attracts predatory wasps (to the flowers) which attack some brassica pests. Celery is similarly said to deter cabbage white butterfly. If left to flower, celery attracts beneficial insects which attack some pests.Grow alongside broad beans, onions, garlic, peas, silver beet or chard.  Other plants said to be good companions include chamomile, clover, hyssop, scented geranium, nasturtium, wormwood, basil, dill, mints, oregano, sage or thyme.  Some growers suggest broccoli and other brassicas are best kept away from grapes, strawberries, beans, onions and rue.

Propagation
Seed sown in summer for autumn and spring harvesting, or from seedlings. Plantings should be staggered at 3-4 week intervals to ensure continuous cropping. Broccoli can be planted at 45 - 60 cm spacings.

Pest and Disease Problems
Grasshoppers, vegetable bugs, cabbage white butterfly. Use a garlic spray to repel most insects.  Pyrethrum often needs to be used to control aphis. Dipel can be used to control caterpillars biologically.

Use
A high yielding vegetable that can be frozen, or cooked and eaten fresh. Once the terminal cluster of flower buds has been removed, smaller flower heads form in the side shoots along the stem, allowing continuous cropping for a few months. All flower heads should be cut with a fairly long stem section. Plants will be ready for harvest from six to nine weeks after planting from seedlings, depending on the variety chosen. Broccoli are high in Vitamin A and C, calcium and iron. 12 plants will feed the average family.