In my garden, one of the plants I am really enjoying eating at the moment is purple sprouting broccoli. We eat the fresh young heads raw in salads, as well as cooking them and adding them to a wide range of recipes. Purple sprouting broccoli is often overlooked by gardeners, in favour of the green, large heads of Calabrese broccoli.
I also grow Calabrese broccoli in my garden (along with a range of other biennial and perennial brassica crops), but purple sprouting broccoli is, in my opinion, a much better value crop. Calabrese produces one larger head, followed by a few further sprouts in summer or early autumn. But time sowings correctly and purple sprouting broccoli can be harvested over a much longer period – sometimes right through winter and well into spring.
Many gardeners choose Calabrese type broccoli because it gives a much quicker reward. The heads are typically ready to harvest within around three months from sowing. Purple sprouting broccoli takes longer, of course. You will plant it between March and June, and see the harvest towards the back end of this year, or next spring (at least 180 days to harvest).
Since purple sprouting broccoli is very hardy, and can tolerate temperatures down to minus 12 degrees C, it can successfully overwinter even in colder climate zones. Brassica oleracea ‘Italica’ group broccoli types are all said to be suitable for USDA Zones 2-11. So many can grow these useful crops in their gardens.
While it takes time to reach harvest, purple sprouting broccoli is not difficult to grow. Just watch out for the birds, and the caterpillars, and net or otherwise protect your crop if necessary.
At the moment, I have lots of purple sprouting broccoli alongside some flowering fava beans, underplanted with lettuce and other leafy quick growing crops in my polytunnel. Shortly, I will be nipping out to pick some for a salad for dinner. But I thought I would just recommend, before I do, that others consider this useful, healthy and tasty addition to a home grown diet.