Broccoli is a brilliant vegetable. The flavour of freshly cut purple sprouting broccoli is fabulous, very similar to the taste of asparagus.
There are several different types of broccoli available which are purple sprouting broccoli, white sprouting broccoli, Calabrese (also called green broccoli) and finally perennial grown broccoli.
Broccoli is part of the brassica family therefore needs conditions similar to most other brassicsas (which include cabbages, Brussels sprouts and cauliflowers). The ground should have been well dug in autumn incorporating a reasonable amount of well rotted manure or compost while digging.
Broccoli seeds should be sown in a seedbed or in pots in April, for transplanting in their main planting positions later in the season. If you plan to sow seeds in a seedbed then it is recommended that you sow seeds thinly in rows that are 6 inches apart. However if you decide to sow them in a seed tray or pots you should sow seeds thinly on the surface lightly covering them with compost.
Broccoli plants need watering throughout the season, regular weeding and pest prevention. Broccoli often gets attacked by caterpillars which can be a real problem. To avoid this you can try netting them, removing caterpillars by hand and spraying with pesticides if you are not growing organically.
If the plants grow large and cannot support their own weight you will need to stake them to make sure they don’t blow over in the winter weather.
Calabrese will be ready before the other types of broccoli, providing a crop in August and September of the same year. Purple and white varieties however will not be ready for harvesting until February with the cropping season ending in April.
The ideal time to cut shoots is once the spears have formed but have not flowered yet, allowing plants to flower will stop further production.
To harvest broccoli snap off the spears by hand or cut with a sharp garden knife, you should continue to harvest while more spears are being produced.