Growing broccoli cabbage is very simple and gives great satisfaction, even in a home garden. It is a Mediterranean plant and its cultivation is widespread above all in the Center-South, where there are several local varieties.
The common names by which it is known are many: Calabrian broccoli, Romanesco broccoli, Nero di Napoli, Veronese broccoli, etc.
It is generally consumed mainly in autumn and winter, and is cultivated (for early harvests) starting from the summer months.
So let’s see what are all the techniques and precautions necessary to grow broccoli in the home garden, and have healthy and tasty plants.
The broccoli cabbage
The salient difference between cauliflower and cabbage-broccoli is in the inflorescence, white and compact in the first, green and more indented in the second.
The broccoli cabbage plant has high vegetative growth. It has a taproot that does not reach great depths. The stem is erect, when fully ripe it can exceed 50 cm. The leaves are evenly distributed on the stem, they are ribbed, dark green in color, and with large white veins. Larger in the lower part, more parades as you climb the stem itself.
The edible part consists of the inflorescences, that is, the branched shoots that end with a large green head. The broccoli, much appreciated in the typical southern cuisine, are nothing more than the buds of the inflorescences. For this reason they should be harvested long before they open for flowering. The final part of the stem is also consumed of the broccoli, which is very fleshy.
Another peculiarity of the broccoli cabbage is that after cutting the main head, there are the emission of new shoots, that is, smaller but equally tasty broccoli heads. The plant in this way prolongs the harvest period and increases the yield.
Not all varieties, however, maintain this peculiarity. So let’s see what the varietal distinction is, within the large family of the broccoli cabbage.
Variety of broccoli cabbage
Romanesco broccoli cabbageRomanesco broccoli cabbage
The cultivation of broccoli cabbage belongs to the peasant tradition of Central-Southern Italy.
There are many typical local varieties that are unfortunately being lost, replaced by hybrid seeds from multinationals.
With hybrid seeds, the varietal difference is reduced to the distinction of the duration of the production cycle. We will therefore have early (50-60 days), medium (75-80-90 days), and late (100-120 days) varieties. The indication of the days refers to the period between the transplanting of a well-formed young seedling and the harvest.
The early and medium varieties are those that produce a good-sized central inflorescence, and then lots of lateral shoots.
The late varieties, on the other hand, produce a single large broccoli, and after its harvest they do not produce new broccoli.
Among the classic varieties, Calabrese broccoli is the earliest, while Veronese is among the latest.
The Romanesco broccoli, on the other hand, has average harvest times. The peculiar characteristic of the latter, which made it famous all over the world, lies in the particular shape of the inflorescences, which resemble the shape of a spiral pyramid.
Period of sowing and transplanting of broccoli cabbage
The cultivation of broccoli cabbage almost always begins in the summer period, especially in the northern regions. The sowing takes place in the months of June , July and August , while the scalar transplants go from July to September .
From the planting of the seed (in the polystyrene seedbed ) it takes about 30 days to obtain seedlings ready for transplanting. So, if you decide to start from seed, calculate your times well.
Frequently, however, seedlings are bought in the nursery ready for transplanting. To understand the timing, therefore, it is good to give practical examples:
If I transplant an early variety (60 days) in early August, I will start harvesting towards the end of September
If you transplant a medium variety (75 days) in September, you will have to wait until November for the harvest .
In the central-southern regions, transplants can also be carried out in early October, for later harvests at the end of the winter season.
An excellent idea is to carry out scalar transplants, in order to have a continuous harvest over time.
Another principle is that early varieties are less resistant to cold than intense frosts , so it is good to start cultivation at the latest by the end of August.
The soil and fertilization
Broccoli cabbage prefers a medium-textured soil, loose and rich in organic matter. What he fears is water stagnation, therefore, before the start of cultivation, a good working of the soil is necessary.
As for fertilization, it is not strictly necessary to carry it out before transplanting. In fact, since it is a vegetable grown in succession to a summer crop, it is possible to exploit a portion of land where an abundant organic fertilization has been carried out in the spring-summer period. For example, in a soil that has hosted a cultivation of zucchini or tomatoes , previously fertilized with mature manure, compost or earthworm humus.
Broccoli cabbage is a plant that has a decent vegetative development. This means that the right distances must be respected to have luxuriant plants.
Optimizing the space to the maximum, we can say that these are the indications for planting:
Early and medium varieties: 40 cm on the row, 50-60 cm between the rows
Late varieties: 60cm on the row, 80cm between the rows.
To grow broccoli cabbage, there are different needs in terms of irrigation. That is, if we start growing in the summer and there is a great drought, it is necessary to use an irrigation system . In this way we ensure a constant water supply to the plants, at least until the arrival of the autumn rains.
If, on the other hand, we start cultivating later and we are lucky enough not to run into a period of long drought, the normal rainfall is able to meet the water needs of the plants. Therefore, consider whether to build an irrigation system or not, also based on the cultivation experiences of previous years.
Cultivation of broccoli cabbage
As we have seen for the cultivation of fennel and cauliflower , tamping of the plants is of fundamental importance.
This operation consists in manually returning some earth to the base of the plant. This allows the broccoli cabbage to swell the stem and roots and better resist bad weather such as rain and strong winds. With tamping, another agronomic operation is carried out at the same time, namely weeding. It is, in essence, the cleaning of weeds. This operation does not require natural mulching.
The tamping can be done one month after the transplant and then every 20 days, until the moment of harvesting.
Broccoli cabbage ready for harvesting broccoli cabbage ready for harvesting
To get great satisfaction from broccoli cabbage, you need to be very careful when harvesting.
It is important, in fact, that this happens at the right times.
It is usually done when the broccoli heads are well-formed but still firm and compact.
They must have a nice deep green color and you need to proceed before the flower buds tend to open.
The actual operation is simple: cut the inflorescences at the base, taking care to cut a part of the stem together with the heads, with all the ramification and relative leaves.
But be careful not to go too low, this could cause the failure to issue new shoots.
Another precaution is to make the cut transversely on the stem, in this way, in case of rain, the water will flow easily, without causing rottenness to the plant.
Biological defense of broccoli cabbage
Among the parasites of the broccoli cabbage, the most fearsome is certainly the cabbage , especially in its larval stage. To eliminate this parasite we recommend two techniques:
The first is the use of the natural macerate of tomato leaves and shanks . This applies to the larvae and literally causes them to fry, so it is very effective.
The second solution is the use of Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki . It is a very effective organic product, to be applied in the evening. Unlike macerate (which you can make at home), bacillus is easy to find on the market ( you can find it here ).
Other greedy pests of broccoli leaves are snails . These can be eliminated by placing some traps made with beer (use the cheap one) in the area of the plants.
Among the cryptogamic diseases that affect the cultivation of broccoli, we remember
the alternaria of the brassicae. This can be prevented in organic farming by using a copper-based product ( like this one ) 20 days after transplanting.
Uses of broccoli cabbage
Black broccoli is an ideal vegetable to consume in the fall and winter. They are rich in nutritional properties and can be prepared in many delicious recipes. For this reason we will dedicate a special study to its properties and recipes. In the meantime, we wish you good organic farming!