Broccoli is a Superfood. It is one of the most widely researched members of the brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) and is renowned for its health giving properties. Broccoli is known to have a protective effect against cancer. It also contains a wide range of phytochemicals which protect against many chronic diseases. Broccoli is also a good source of beta carotene, vitamin C, folate and fibre.
Broccoli is a wonderful vegetable to grow in the winter – it thrives in cool temperatures. It is best to plant seedlings in March or April to give it a good chance to establish before winter. It does grow at other times but pests can be a problem then. Slugs and snails are always a problem for me.
One year I planted the seedlings in February and the White Butterflies were in absolute heaven. Once I saw them massing around my veggie garden I covered it in netting and got hours of entertainment watching the butterflies absolutely determined to find a way to get in and lay their eggs. Some did manage to, and then I had hours of slightly messier entertainment trying to pick off all the caterpillars before they decimated my plants.
I really like broccoli because it is so easy to grow. Plant the seedlings out about 35cm apart and make sure they get enough water and keep the pests off. It is ready to harvest in 60-90 days. If you cut the main head off and leave the plant, more sprouts will grow up from the sides giving you a continuing harvest.
There are many different varieties you can try: the normal green headed one, a purple one, a sprouting one, broccolini (long slender stems with small florets).
Broccoli is a very versatile vegetable: you can steam it, microwave it, boil it or stir fry it. I love to use it in stir-fry veggie mixes or serve steamed with a casserole.
It also makes a nice salad: blanch smallish florets until bright green in colour, plunge into cold water, and drain. Mix with chopped orange pieces and sprinkle sliced almonds on top.
You can also freeze it: wash and cut into smallish florets. Blanch in boiling water for about 3 minutes (goes bright green). Plunge into cold water. Drain well, pat dry with a paper towel, and freeze. I free-flow freeze them on a baking tray first and then transfer to a bag.