Calabrese sprouting broccoli is a popular choice among gardeners for its easy care requirements and versatile culinary uses. This Italian heirloom has been grown in the Mediterranean region for centuries but didn’t gain commercial acceptance in the United States until after the Second World War.
What is Calabrese Broccoli
Calabrese is an old-fashioned variety of broccoli renowned for its bluish green heads and multiple side shoots. It can be grown as an early spring or fall crop. Its flavorful five inch (13 cm.) central heads are ready for harvest in 60 to 90 days. This cool season member of the Brassicaceae family is thought to contain natural cancer fighting substances.
Calabrese Broccoli Growing Info
To prevent spring planted calabrese sprouting broccoli from flowering during summer harvest, start plants indoors six to eight weeks before the final frost. Sow seeds ¼ inch (6 mm.) deep in a good quality starter soil and keep moist during germination. Place sprouted seedlings near a window or under grow lights.
To prevent sun scorched leaves and transplant shock, each broccoli plant will need hardened off before planting in the garden. To harden vegetable plants, slowly introduce them to full sunlight and windy conditions by exposing them to the outdoors for an increasingly longer period of time each day. Using a portable mini greenhouse can aid in this process.
Once the ground has sufficiently warmed and danger of frost has past, transplant calabrese sprouting broccoli to a sunny location with good drainage. To prevent disease transmission, rotate crops. Avoid planting broccoli where any member of the cabbage family has been grown in the past three years.
Fall crops of broccoli can be started in midsummer by direct seeding into the garden. Thin or transplant broccoli to space plants 12 to 16 inches (30-40 cm.) apart. Keep soil moist and control competition from weeds by removing unwanted plants or mulching.
Calabrese Broccoli Plant Pests
Like many members of the cabbage family, broccoli can catch the attention of unwanted bugs. Using row covers, spraying, or manually picking off insects are typical management practices aimed at ridding broccoli of these pests. The most common broccoli pests to look out for include:
Calabrese Broccoli Harvesting
Home gardeners can harvest broccoli by cutting the main flower stem six inches (15 cm.) below the head. Use a sharp knife since twisting or snapping the stem can damage the plant. For the best quality, harvest the heads when the buds are tightly closed.
Either use or cool freshly picked broccoli soon after harvest to prevent wilting of the flower head. Broccoli is a popular ingredient in many recipes and can be eaten fresh, sautéed, or stir fried. You can also freeze for future use.