Grow broccoli and develop a whole new respect for this everyday vegetable.
Broccoli was one of the first vegetables I planted in my family garden. It takes up a whole square foot plot, slowly forming a stalk, large leaves and eventually a flower head.
The flower head is the part you eat. If you wait too long to harvest it, all of those little bumps start to open up into tiny yellow flowers.
Broccoli is a cultivar of Brassica oleracea, meaning it is the same species as cabbage, bok choi, brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower. Earlier versions of it were cultivated as far back as the Roman Empire.
The original "wild cabbage" originates in southern and western Europe. It has a high tolerance for salt and lime, and found along sea cliffs in places the the Isle of Wight.
If you want to grow broccoli in a warm climate, such as Southern California, you will most likely want to start it indoors before the fall season, or start with a seedling.
Broccoli won't flower properly if the weather is too warm. I have experimented with growing broccoli from seed late in the season. Out of five plants, only one produced a flower. The one that did flower did not form a nice tight flower head, but instead produced multiple fractured flowers that very quickly bloomed.
Broccoli prefers light, sandy soil that drains well. The soil should not be too rich in fertilizer or it may grow large without producing a flower. The flower is the main part we eat! Make sure the broccoli received full sunlight. Since this is a cool season crop, you shouldn't have to worry about it getting too much sun if you grow it at the right time.
Broccoli should be harvested when the flower head is about 6-8 inches across. You want to cut the head at its base with a clean, sharp knife.
This will create a large wound on the plant, but if you do it right you can get a couple of small shoots below your cut for additional harvests. They won't get nearly as large as the original head.