Purple Broccoli Overview
|Official Plant Name||Brassica oleracea var italica ‘Purple sprouting’|
|Common Name(s)||Purple Sprouting Broccoli|
|When To Sow||March, April, May|
|Plant Out||June, July|
|Harvesting Months||February, March, April, May|
Full Sun or Partial Shade
0.1 – 0.5M
0.1 – 0.5M
February – May
Most Soil Types
Moist but well drained
No matter what you do or say, which rewards are promised after dinner, and however carefully you disguise it on the plate: Some kids, just will not, eat broccoli.
Let’s be honest. How many of us either have kids that do this, or did this ourselves when we were kids –
Unless, that is, you give them purple sprouting broccoli. This stylish vegetable looks juuust different enough from its regular, healthy-green cousin. The purple florets are intriguing, rather than inexplicably off-putting, and many kids will jump at the chance to eat something unusually coloured.
So if you’re looking for ways to turn your kids from broccoli sulkers to broccoli superheroes (like the spiffing fellow below), read on…
What is purple sprouting broccoli?
This funky floret is a variant on the familiar broccoli design. Instead of the traditional thick green stem with a big bushy green head – technically known as Calabrese broccoli – this variety boasts many heads, each with its own thin stalk. As well as being visually distinctive, sprouting broccoli is also easier to handle, quicker to prepare, and more readily attractive on a plate of food.
Sprouting broccoli also comes in white, and these are just two of many different types of the vegetable. Alongside Calabrese and sprouting broccoli, the intrepid broccoli enthusiast will know of Romanesco, Waltham 29, Blue Wind, Destiny, Green Goliath, Beneforté, and many more.
For the sake of your kids’ morale, though, we’ll limit this guide to sprouting broccoli. No child deserves to have to meet eighteen new types of broccoli at once.
How to grow and care for purple sprouting broccoli
Now we’ve piqued your interest, here’s what you need to know to get purple sprouting broccoli to grow in your garden. You’ll be pleased to know this isn’t too demanding, and done right, you should score a bumper harvest.
Where to grow your plant
Purple sprouting broccoli likes a spot with full sun, but it’ll tolerate a little bit of shade. Make sure to pick somewhere with well-draining soil, and ideally dig some fertiliser or prepared compost through the soil ahead of planting. This nutritious boost will give your broc the best opportunity to grow big and strong.
If you’re particularly enthusiastic about getting started with your broccoli, you can get the seeds going indoors up until mid April. Simply pop them in modular trays or small pots – two per pot – and leave them in a greenhouse or near a window to attract some rays.
At this stage, you’ll want to feed the young broccoli weekly with liquid feed.
When they begin to sprout, remove the weaker of the two from each module or pot and throw it away. With broccoli, it’s survival of the fittest!
Transplant your seedlings into the ground when they’re about 15cm tall.
If you’re happy to wait until later in the growing season, you can sow your broccoli seeds directly outdoors. You’ll want to pop three seeds in a hole, then 30cm away pop another three in, and so on. They should be about 2cm deep.
As with your indoor seeds, you’ll need to cull the two weakest seedlings when it becomes apparent which they are. This will give the strongest the best chance to grow.
Unlike children, slugs, snails, birds, and other critters are absolutely mad for broccoli, so we highly recommend covering the young plants to prevent them from being ravaged. Fleece is good for this, or you could cover the whole crop in chicken wire, gauze, or similar.
Broccoli is fairly tolerant to sporadic watering. You need to water fortnightly during dry weather, otherwise just incorporate watering into your normal gardening routine.
Your broc will appreciate some high nitrogen fertiliser to give it a little nutrition boost when it’s around 20cm tall.
When your broccoli has put forth flower buds, but before they actually open into flowers, this is the ideal time to harvest.
To extend the period during which you can harvest, cut the central broccoli stalk first. Then, over the next few weeks, you’ll be able to harvest from the smaller side-stalks, guaranteeing a gradual trickle of broccoli for your kitchen exploits.
Troubleshooting your crop
As we’ve said, broccoli is of special interest to a distressingly wide array of garden pests. Here’s how to keep the worst contenders at bay –
Slugs and snails
Erect a physical barrier around your crop to prevent slimy visitors from reaching the leaves. You’ll want something that doesn’t block light from getting to the plant – materials like gauze and chicken-wire are good options.
If you find these pests making their way to your broc nonetheless, there are a range of deterrents available. You can grow sacrificial plants nearby to distract them, you could craft a beer trap to lure them in, or if you’re desperate, you can use slug pellets.
These feathered visitors will have a hearty munch on your developing broccoli. In the best case, this causes unsightly physical damage. In the worse case, they can cause so much damage that the plant is unable to properly grow.
As with slugs and snails, physical barriers are best. Covering your broccoli from all angles in an enclosed mesh is one option, or you could cover with fleece.
Scarecrows and other bird deterrents can work, but often birds will wise up to them pretty quickly. Fear is easily overridden by the promise of a broccoli dinner, it seems.
In very hot weather, broccoli is prone to go to seed prematurely, which can lead to smaller florets than usual. Unfortunately there’s not much way to control against this, unless you feel like taking an AC unit out into your garden. (Hint: Don’t do that).
Our favourite broccoli recipe
It seems wrong to write a care and growing guide for a vegetable as delicious as purple sprouting broccoli without including any specific mention of recipes that include it. So before we go, we thought we’d share our favourite purple sprouting broccoli recipe with you.
We’ll spare you the haute-cuisine stylings of the posh celebrity chefs, instead opting for something in the calibre of Jamie Oliver: Cheap, quick, easy, and surprisingly delicious.
Roasted purple sprouting broccoli stems
Roasting broccoli really draws out the best flavours, and the satisfying crunch provided by a little time in the oven lifts the texture to the next level. You could eat this as a standalone dish if you’re feeling particularly healthy, but we recommend lining up a few roasted florets next to a portion of meat, fish, or veggie alternative.
Here’s how to do it:
- Heat your oven to 200 / 180 fan
- Trim your broccoli stalks to remove any woody bits
- Pop them on a baking tray
- Drizzle olive oil all over
- Add a crack of black pepper, a few flakes of sea salt and, if you’re feeling brave, a pinch of dried chilli flakes
- Slide them into the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes
- Remove, and check that they’ve crisped up nicely
It’ll knock their broc off
We hope that you’re now inspired to grow some tasty broccoli in your garden. Whether you’re expanding your existing home-growing repertoire, or this floret will be your first foray, you’re in for a treat. And if you are a proud parent (or a young child, although we somehow doubt it), trust us when we say that you’ll have much more luck getting a kid to eat this variety than your standard, mushy green Calabrese.