Broccoli and Cauliflower are big plants. Please do remember this as you decide what to plant! For this reason, and because you only get one head per plant (unless you are growing sprouting or broccolini/rapini types), I tend not to grow them. Its just not a lot of bang for the buck (and square footage in the garden). Plus, like beans and regular onions, they are dead easy to get fresh and frozen at the market.
But, if you just can’t say no, here’s what you will need to know!
Time to Maturity: 50-80 days for most broccolis and cauliflowers, which means there is a broccoli for everyone! The outlier here is Early Purple Sprouting which is meant to be overwintered and harvested in the Spring, I’m not 100% sure just how hardy these plants are.
Diseases & Pests: Fusarium Yellows, Black Rot, Lepidoptera type bugs like cabbage looper, cabbage worm, and diamond back moths, and flea beetles. Floating row covers are generally recommended with most brassicas- so its something to consider when planning out your space.
Key Words: Do keep an eye out for the size and type of head on all of these. Know what you are getting into plant size wise as well. Some varieties are particularly heat tolerant which will be useful to some of you. I find that many of the taste descriptors we come to expect in seed catalogs tend to dry up when it comes to these two vegetables- so focus on size and growing conditions.
Broccoli: No need to reinvent the wheel here! The rapini/broccolini types are particularly well suited to stir fries and grilling, so if that’s your bag do consider these types.
Cauliflower: Apparently you can turn cauliflower into anything from tortilla wraps to pizza crust to faux-mashed potatoes and rice. The sky is the limit! I prefer to roast them or, if I’m feeling particularly saucy, drench them in hot-wing sauce and serve with bleu cheese dressing as a vegetarian spin on buffalo wings. Delish!
What I’ve Grown in the Past: De Cicco Broccoli, Romanesco, and Rapini. All did fine enough, but none so great that I felt the need to replant them. I will try Romanesco again because I just think they are so beautiful that they deserve the effort.
What I’d Like to Try: This year I’m growing Burgundy Sprouting Broccoli which forms multiple small heads at about 75 days. I’m hoping to treat it much like broccolini and harvest the florets as needed. It is also supposed to handle dry, hot summers so I’m hoping it will be a nice, new addition to the garden
I’d love to hear if you devote space in your veg patch for these guys and which varieties you prefer.