Big white curds, or heads, of broccoli cannot be distinguished by the ordinary eye from those of cauliflower; but the small and plentifully. produced heads of sprouting broccoli are distinctive enough. Parts eaten are the large heads of the former, and the small leaf-and-flower heads of the sprouting kind.
An open position is required, and good – but not newly dug and manured – soil is necessary. A really firm root-run is essential to sturdy growth and productiveness.
Varieties are numerous. Those which come into use from September to the year end include Sand-ringham Winter White, Walcheren, Veitch’s Self-protecting; from Christmas to April, Mammoth Spring White, Leamington, Snow’s Winter White, Adam’s Early White, Improved Early Purple Sprouting and Improved White Sprouting; from April to June, Champion, Universal Protecting, Late Queen, Model and Purple Sprouting.
About 1,000 seeds go to the ounce, and seedlings appear in about ten days.
Ready for Use.
Autumn, winter, spring and early summer, according to variety. Much depends upon weather as to the date when cutting of heads may begin.
Broccoli is well catered for if it can follow a crop that had its site deeply dug and manured (or enriched with decayed vegetable matter); in which case the ground should not be dug again but have the surface forked over. If broccoli must be planted out in newly dug ground this must be made firm and solid, by treading or rolling.
A dusting of hydrated lime may be forked into the surface a week or so before planting; if the soil is light or sandy, however, ground limestone should be used, about I lb. to the square yard.
When and How to Sow.
Seed to be sown during late March and early April, in 1 in. deep drills in a prepared seed bed, the seedlings to be kept well watered so that they experience no check in growth. Sow as thinly as possible; crowded seedlings start under a handicap. Should they come up thickly, remove as many as necessary to leave the seedlings not less than 1 in. apart.
Transplanting from Seed
Shift the seedlings early (with a trowel) from the seed bed to a nursery bed, 3 in. or 4 in. apart each way. Leave them firm and low in the soil. Continue watering as necessary. Before they become crowded shift them again, this time into the prepared rows. Planting Out. The rows where the plants are to remain should be 2 ft. apart, the plants 20 in. apart in the rows, the soil being trodden or rolled if not thoroughly firm. If the ground is light and thirsty, plant in 4-in. deep drills, to facili tate watering; or leave a depression around each plant to receive water.
The trowel-made holes should be large enough to take the roots com fortably, and deep enough to allow the stems to be covered level with the lowest leaves.
Hand-picking caterpillars from the leaves is a tiresome but effective method of dealing with this pest; or plants may be syringed with salt water, or dusted with Derris powder. Gall weevil and club root may also be troublesome.
Cutting the Heads.
Large, single heads should be cut before the curds begin to open; small heads of the sprouting varieties to be gathered as they become available, or they will run up to seed.
Large-headed plants ready for cutting but not wanted immediately can be held back by shielding the head against sunshine with the plant’s own topmost leaves, these being drawn together over the head and tied. Or the plants may be dug up complete with roots and replanted deeply and close together where sun cannot reach, the soil then being made wet – a bucket of water allotted to each plant.
Big-headed broccoli that are to stand through the winter for later use may need protection in the event of hard frost. This is given by laying the plants over so that the heads are directed to the north or west before hard weather comes. Soil is taken with the spade from the north or west side of the row and heaped against the stems on the opposite side and pushed with the foot so that each plant stem becomes nearly parallel with the ground. Root action is thus checked, and the flow of sap hindered; in which condition the plants are more resistant to frost. More or less advanced heads should be protected, when frost comes, with a layer of dry bracken or other clean litter.
Preparing for Table.
Remove soiled outer leaves, cut back leaf-ribs level with the head, pare the stalk closely, wash in salt water (about a teaspoonful to the gallon), and soak head-down in salt water for twenty minutes, before cooking. Wash and soak small heads of sprouting broccoli in like fashion.
The Italian green sprouting broccoli (Calabrese), available during August to September if sown in March, produces one big head and, after this is cut, a number of sprouts. Heads and sprouts are cut with about 6 in. of stem; the stems are peeled and cooked with the rest of the vegetable. Peeled stems may also be used as asparagus.
As a food, broccoli is nutritious and vers’ digestible.