I sowed the seeds for my current planting on February 22. For plants like broccoli I sow multiple seeds in a 4-inch pot and when they have developed a few true leaves I separate the plants and pot them up individually into a larger containers, in this case into quart yogurt containers that I had drilled holes into the bottoms of. I let the plants grow on a few weeks more and then set the best of the bunch out into the garden. I typically start at least twice the number of plants that I want because there are inevitable losses and runts. Shown below are the newly planted out seedlings on April 25 of this year, the Di Ciccio are on the left and there are 4 Purple Peacock plants on the right. The red tape is a flash tape that I had to put up to scare the birds away, they were pecking the poor plants to shreds.
|Broccoli plants on April 25|
|Broccoli on August 18|
Di Ciccio produces small main heads that are usually 3 to 4 inches in diameter. This year one of my plants came out huge, it produced that whopper of a head shown at the top of the post, here it is as an infant, already 3 to 4 inches across long before it was ready to harvest.
|The Whopper as a baby on May 21|
|A typical main head, weighing in at 13 ounces.|
The head shown below is still in the typical range, but just a couple of inches across. So, that is one of the few flaws of this variety, the production is highly variable from plant to plant. A minor flaw in my opinion. It makes it a little more difficult to plan how many plants to grow if you are seeking a certain level of production, but in general I've found that four to six plants produce quite enough to keep this household of 2 happy. This year I also planted 4 Purple Peacock broccoli plants and the combined production of the eight plants has turned out to be quite enough for fresh eating. I never plan on preserving any broccoli, so if I wanted more broccoli for the freezer I would have to set out more plants.
|Another typical head of Di Ciccio, on the smaller side|
Here's a couple of side shoots on one of the larger plants before I harvested this morning.
You can see what a nice long stem this other shoot has and the potential for a lot of new side shoots.
And another nice long stemmed shoot with lots of tiny shoots in the leaf nodes.
I think a lot of gardeners would be inclined to harvest the nice little head on top and leave all those potential little shoots.
But look, I cut the stem close to the bottom of the shoot, leaving one good little bud and perhaps there's another one in the node of the next leaf down. I could not tell if there was a bud in the lower leaf node so I cut above the next one where I could see the bud. The plant will direct it's energy in that one bud and it should produce another nice fat long shoot, but just a bit smaller than the one just cut. If I had left all those buds up and down the stem then the plant would have to spread it's energy amongst the buds and they would all be small. Eventually you would end up with a big plant that produces just short small shoots. If that's what you want, great, but I like those nice fat long shoots.
Look what happened here on my smaller plant that didn't produce a lot of side shoots. I cut one of the larger shoots so that it had three buds remaining. I was hoping that the plant would get up some steam and direct a lot of energy into all the shoots. I did get three fairly nice shoots, you can see where I cut each of them down to one bud, but now there's three much smaller shoots developing. When I harvest these shoots I'm going to cut two of the stems out entirely and let the plant direct it's energy in just one stem and perhaps I'll get one long fat shoot again.
Here's the freshly cut broccoli harvest from this morning.
Look at how long a couple of those stems were. The bottom portion on those long stems is rather tough and so are the leaf stems.
When I prep my broccoli shoots I cut off the leaves and remove the tough leaf stems (petioles). The leaves can be prepared like kale. I used the leaves from the last bunch of broccoli in a frittata.
I cut the main stems off where the skin is tender enough to cut through easily and save the tough skinned portions to peel. I love the broccoli stems, they taste like kohlrabi which is after all just the grossly fattened stem of a another brassica. Often times I just munch the peeled stems raw.
And here's the shoots prepped for cooking. Look how small the shoots are on the left, those are from the small plants. I'm glad all my plants didn't come out like that!
It's been a good spring and summer for broccoli this year. The Di Ciccio endured the short heat wave that we had in June and has been producing a nice steady supply of shoots through the summer. I started harvesting on May 25 and since then the total harvest has come to 11.3 pounds with plenty more shoots developing on the plants. We've had a run of rather cool weather for the past few weeks so the broccoli has stayed tender and sweet. It will be interesting to see how it does as we go into our typically warmer than summer (hopefully) fall weather. Perhaps these plants will continue to produce into winter for me. I've had Di Ciccio plants that produced for over a year. Sometimes I've been able to cut the plants down quite hard and have them send up strong new shoots from the base of the plant. Will I have the patience for that this year? Ah, probably not, I've already got generation two coming along in pots...
I'll be linking up with Liz on her blog Suburban Tomato where she maintains the list of Saturday Spotlight posts. Head on over there to learn about all sorts of vegetables that have been *garden blogger tested and approved*.