Broccoli can be a difficult crop to grow in the home garden. The greatest challenge is the timing. If you plant too early, the plants are usually stunted by cold soil and chilly ambient temperatures. If you plant too late, the plants will start to form a head and then suddenly bolt during a hot spell. Broccoli doesn’t enjoy transplanting either.
Sometimes only a portion of the crop will come to successful harvest. These pics show a couple of very nice size heads that I picked in mid-July. The weather has been slightly cooler than normal for this time of year and we have had an extraordinary amount of rain for the past month and a half. This may help to delay the plants from bolting. It is yet to be seen if the remaining 5 heads will develop fully before going to seed. I have some doubt, because the weather forecast for the coming week is said to be in the mid-90 F and above (33+ C). It is a pity because I spend a lot of my precious composted humus, a natural fertilizer, on boosting these plants early in the growing cycle.
Perhaps I should try planting a late season crop, by sowing broccoli seed in early July for a September harvest. Often finding the right way to grow a particular vegetable in your specific location is a matter of trial and error.
Rich in vitamin A, B-6 and C. Broccoli is also known for its health benefits as an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. It is high in phytochemicals which are said to have cancer fighting capabilities.
Steamed with just a bit of butter and freshly ground black pepper is my favorite way of cooking broccoli. It is simple and delicious. In summer it is good to cook some florets slightly underdone and then chill them. These can later be used in stir-fry or with salad dressing as a cold vegetable.
Another great way to use broccoli, especially if you have an abundance of it, is to make soup. I like to make a base of broccoli, carrots, onions and celery – sweated in butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. When the veggies are limp add some chicken stock (or water if you prefer no animal product). Bring it to the boil and then cool. This mixture should be pureed and then kept in the freezer as a soup base for cream of broccoli soup or a batch of broccoli-cheddar soup.
Update 7/26/15- The broccoli crop was a terrific success this year! This morning, I woke early to get into the garden and harvest basil and broccoli before the sun became too hot. My efforts have been rewarded with a wonderful bounty of big heads of broccoli. I’ve been busy with a lot of other projects this summer and the excessive rain we’ve had has prevented me from being more attentive to my garden chores. In spite of my neglect I was able to cut these heads of broccoli before they were hit by the hot weather that is forecast for today and the remainder of the week. Had I waited another day they would have bolted.