Friday, September 19, 2014

Why doesn't Broccoli Purple Sprouting set Broccoli Florets?

Dangerous Don and his triffid.

A month or so ago I received a text from a retail nurseryman with a picture of a monster plant like this one; clearly a Brassica with dark foliage and massive. "This is supposed to be Broccoli purple Sprouting, but there are no sprouts. You might need to check your seed". Whilst I did not disregard this call, I didn't follow it up with much vigour, we had received no other complaints...

Then Don asked the same question.  Don has been a customer, a trusted source of vegetable growing knowledge and an amusing correspondent since he was merely old.  As Don is (possibly was now) my most reliable source on all things vegie growing I asked him to do a little research, the result is a long list of negative comments from gardening bulletin boards along the lines of "I'll never grow this plant again".  OK I had better get serious.

Every other day someone suggests a plant we "really must grow". Every now and then I relent and we add a few items that we think might fly. Broccoli Purple Sprouting passed the first hurdle last year and was added to our list  this Autumn. Seed was available, a good pic for a label but no we never tried growing it out ourselves. Truth is we trust our seed suppliers and a good deal of what we grow is not tested. The combination of an interesting variant of a popular vegetable, rave reviews for its flavour from foodies including Stephanie Alexander, a good label and seedlings that look good in punnets ensured that Broccoli Purple Sprouting has sold very well. Not as well as Broccoli Marathon or Black Toscana Kale (another relatively recent addition) but more popular than most Onions.

So we come back to the original question. Is the plant in the picture Broccoli Purple Sprouting?  YES

Broccoli Purple Sprouting takes ages to mature.  Ignore the 10 weeks (70 days) I included on our label, Purple Sprouting Broccoli must be planted in Summer or Autumn and allowed to grow through Winter to finally set florets in Spring, all told 200-220 days.  The other thing to be aware of is the "Sprouting" name refers (I think) to the relatively small, multi headed curds that finally form.

All Broccoli prefer a sunny position so they need some care when first planted out in Summer to ensure they don't dry out.
Soil.  Rich and moist with lots of organic matter to retain moisture and nutrient to support that enormous plant.
Harvest. Before the florets actually start to flower.  The consensus appears to be that the florets are flavoursome and tender so cook them lightly only. They will turn green when cooked.
Broccoli Purple Sprouting is an Heirloom variety so it has not been bred for quick production or long keeping.  Cut and eat fresh is best.

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