How to Grow: Unusual Broccoli

Listen to this podcast on how to grow unusual broccoli varieties


Broccoli has become a popular and staple vegetable in many gardens and on many plates. But not all broccoli is created equal. There are some unusual heirlooms and hybrids on the market that can make broccoli growing down right fun! Check these out.

For the longest time, the trend in broccoli heads was to get big. Now, it’s going in the opposite direction. Small headed varieties such as ‘Happy Trends’ and the heirloom ‘De Cicco’ feature bushy plants that produce multitudes of 3- to 4-inch diameter heads all summer. They’re perfect for a small meal.

If you’ve ever wondered about eating broccoli leaves (they are edible), try the ‘Spring Raab’ and ‘Sessantina Grossa’. These broccoli raab varieties are quick to mature in cool weather from direct sown seed. Unlike other broccolis, you eat the whole plant just the the small head is forming. Spigariello Liscia’ is a leaf broccoli that you eat once the leaves are large enough. It’s sweeter tasting then broccoli raab. Succession plant these broccoli for fall crops.

For something really different, try the ‘Sante’ sprouting broccoli variety. It produces small, purple colored heads and is best grown as a fall crop.

Broccoli is a heavy feeding vegetable, so grow them in raised beds in compost-amended soil. Add an organic fertilizer at planting time and monthly. Keep flea beetles off young seedlings with sprays of diatomaceous earth. For varieties that grow all summer and into fall, I found it’s best to grow them under floating row covers or tulle. This prevents the cabbageworm butterfly and Swede midge fly from laying eggs that will damage the heads and leaves. When harvesting, strip the broccoli side shoots back to the main trunk to encourage fewer, but bigger side heads to form.

Excerpted from the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio.