Image by Ian Richardson
By Bonnie L. Grant
Brassica romanesco is a fun vegetable in the same family as cauliflower and cabbage. Its more common name is broccoli romanesco and it produces lime green heads packed with smaller florets similar to its cousin, the cauliflower. Planting romanesco broccoli is a great way of providing variety in your family’s diet.
The unique flavor and the crazy looking plant are kid favorites and they can be involved in growing romanesco broccoli. Learn how to grow romanesco and expose your friends and family to a unique brassica that can be used fresh or cooked.
What is Romanesco?
Your first glimpse of this strange vegetable will have you wondering, what is romanesco? The neon green color is unearthly and the entire head is spiked unevenly. What at first appears to be from Mars, is a member of the cole family, which includes cabbage, broccoli and other cool season vegetables.
They grow much like cauliflower off of thick stalks with wide rough leaves. The central head gets large, and the entire plant can span two feet in diameter. Leave a large space for growing romanesco broccoli, as it is not only wide but needs plenty of nutrients to grow the huge heads. The plant is hardy in United States Department of Agriculture zones 3 to 10 and can grow well into fall in temperate areas.
How to Grow Romanesco
Broccoli romanesco needs well drained soil in full sun. Prepare the seed bed with the addition of organic material and till well. Sow seeds in May if direct seeding. Planting broccoli romanesco in cooler zones is best done from starts. You can sow them in seed flats six to eight weeks before planting out.
Young romanesco broccoli care must include regular watering and weeding around the seedling to prevent competitive weeds. Set plants at least two feet apart in rows spaced 3 feet from each other
Broccoli romanesco is a cool season plant that bolts when exposed to high heat. In temperate zones you can get a spring crop and an early fall crop. Planting broccoli romanesco seed in late July to early August will achieve a fall crop.
Romanesco Broccoli Care
The plants need the same care that broccoli or cauliflower require. They are tolerant of some dry conditions but best head formation occurs when they are consistently moist. Water from the base of the plant to prevent fungal problems on the leaves.
Side dress the plants with manure and fertilize them with a water soluble fertilizer, twice during the heading period. Cut the heads off when they are the size you desire and store in a cool dry place.
Broccoli romanesco is excellent, steamed, blanched, grilled or just in a salad. Try replacing it in many of your favorite vegetable dishes.