Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Purple sprouting broccoli, hooray!

Photo of purple sprouting broccoli forming on a big leafy plant
It's sprouting
I've been waiting just about a year for this moment:  I sowed the seeds last spring, grew the young plants on in my holding bed, and transplanted them out after the summer peas were finished, in late summer.  I vigilantly picked caterpillars and eggs off them every day for a month, to keep them from being stripped (they've been completely defoliated by caterpillars in previous years).  They grew all autumn and winter--in fact they even outgrew their stakes and flopped over (two are still staked up, at least).  But all the while, they've been just taking up leafy space, with no harvest from them.  Until now.

Purple sprouting broccoli doesn't grow a big central head like storebought broccoli;  it grows little shoots all over the plant, which are time consuming to harvest, I'll admit.  The first shoots are picked--I use scissors--then new, smaller shoots grow in their place which are then harvested, then new smaller ones grow, and so on.  This plant is a labor of love, from its long growing time to its little-by-little harvest.  But it's one of the few vegetables to be harvested this early in the spring, and a very welcome change to our diet:  particularly if we were eating solely from the garden (wish we were but not quite there yet).

I have around a dozen plants, all in 2016's peas/beans/brassicas bed, except for two which somehow evaded notice in the old holding bed.  Now they're all sprouting, I expect to pick them every two or three days--left too long, the shoots will flower, which are still edible but not as nice (a bit soft for cooking, and spicy when raw).  There have been years where I let them get away from me, and lost a large proportion of the harvest to flowers.  I'll be diligent this year and if I have to, will freeze any excess.  Hopefully it won't come to that though, and we'll eat it all up as it comes--it's laborious enough without the extra preparation of freezing!

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