Broccoli looks like a small tree with its thick trunk and pale green branches all covered with clumps of tightly packed flower buds. Each of these branches is called a floret and this is the part that we eat as a vegetable though the trunk is also delicious to eat.
Broccoli is from the same family as the cabbage and is now known to be one of the best vegetables that we can eat because it contains an agent that is supposed to help fight against cancer. It is also a good source of dietary fibre, potassium and vitamin E.
Some kids think that they don’t like eating broccoli but it actually tastes great! The problem is that it is sometimes cooked for too long which makes it go mushy. It is much more delicious if it is still a bit crunchy and can even be eaten raw.
Choose a spot in the garden that gets at least 6 hours of sun every day and prepare the garden bed by removing any weeds. Dig some compost through the topsoil and gently water the ground as well as the seedlings.
Use a dibbler or thick stick to make holes in the ground for the seedlings about 40cm apart. Carefully remove the seedlings from their punnet and place the root ball in the hole and gently push the soil around it.
As soon as the seedlings are planted, cover the ground with mulch such as pea straw and give them a light water.
Broccoli seedlings can also be planted into very large containers that are at least 25cm tall. Fill them with premium potting mix and plant the seedlings about 25cm apart. The tops grow quite wide so they need plenty of space to grow into. Make sure the pot is in full sun so that it gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Keep the soil just moist by watering every day and apply liquid fertiliser every two weeks. Keep a look out for caterpillars and aphids which may hide underneath the leaves.
The broccoli plant can grow quite tall and has large bluey green leaves growing from underneath the head. Once the head is between 10 and 12cm wide and the flower buds are deep green and tightly packed, use a knife to cut the stem about 10cm below it at an angle. Leave the rest of the plant in the ground as small florets will keep growing from the remaining stem and these can be harvested later on. Put the broccoli in a plastic bag and refrigerate it straight away to keep it fresh.
HOW TO EAT
Broccoli florets can be steamed, boiled or microwaved for just a couple of minutes so that they are still crisp and bright green. If they are overcooked they become mushy and not very tasty. Broccoli florets are also fantastic in stir-fries. To use the stem, peel off the tough skin, slice it into disks and cook with the florets.
Try our delicious recipes for broccoli in the Smarty Plants Kitchen. They are really easy!
HOW THEY GROW
Broccoli seedlings grow a solid thick stem with very large, leathery leaves. At the top, a green head of broccoli starts to form and this is the part that we generally eat. This head is actually made up of thousands of tiny flower buds that group together on green stalks. If the head isn’t harvested, the tiny flowers will open up and become yellow.
Botanical Name: Brassica oleracea italica
Life Cycle: Annual
When to Grow: Autumn and winter
Height/Width: 40cm x 40cm
Requirements: Plant in full sun and water every day. Don’t let the soil dry out. Apply a liquid fertiliser every fortnight.
Nutritional Benefits: Broccoli is a super food as it helps fight cancer and is high in vitamin E.