Broccoli is a cool weather loving plant and can be brought to the garden twice a year in spring and fall. Optimum temperature for planting and growing broccoli is between 65 and 80 degrees fahrenheit. Here, in the far-South, we can grow broccoli from November thru February. Some covering may be needed if you plant late and temperatures drop, even then, it may not be pretty but, a frost bitten plant can stock for the pot.
You can harvest the leaves and use in your salads or cook them as you would any greens, like spinach or kale. The leaves are actually richer in beta-carotenes than the florets. While you are cooking dinner and you find yourself short of a green veg, get out to the garden and pick some leaves. Cut out the stems which take longer to cook and wilt the leaves in a hot pan with butter. Done, and done! Looks good, tastes like restaurant haute cuisine and it's good for you.
Once the heads of the vegetable have been harvested, the plant can be let to go to seed as the spring warms. Add a little organic fertilizer (manure) to encourage the lover heads to come up and bloom. Here is where you get your seeds for the next crop. Once you have gathered the seed heads, the stalks make an addition to the stock pot, or fodder for animals.
Not everyone likes the flavor of this vegetable, but when you are hungry, it is food for life. Sure, it's a whole lot easier to persuade a child to eat broccoli if it is saturated with some kind of cheese sauce, but that is the fault of the parent. Feed a child broccoli, pureed as an infant and continue adding it to the menu weekly, and you can train their little pallette (and yours) to accept the cabbage like taste.
Considering the nutritional values posted below, it's well worth the space in the garden and the acquired taste to have this plant in the garden. If you don't have an orange grove in your backyard, get your vitamin C from broccoli! The cooler months are the times you are most likely to find yourself susceptible to colds and flu. You can beef up your immune system with fresh broccoli in the diet.
|*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.|