Garden to Table: Broccoli

With its sweet high notes and sulfurous body, broccoli might be the perfect vegetable.

Broccoli has a beauty all its own.

Broccoli has a beauty all its own.

In popular culture, broccoli is often associated with duty. Eating your broccoli is like taking your medicine. You do it because you should, not because you want to. It is true that broccoli is mightily good for you. It’s a solid source of protein, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium, as well as a provider of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese. Broccoli is credited with benefiting the nervous system, immune system, circulatory system, skeletal system and preventing cancer — among other things.

Though broccoli is abstractly imbued with a sense of obligation, when we come face to face with eaters at farmers’ markets and CSA drops, we find that broccoli is a beloved bundle of deliciousness greeted with ooohs and ahhhs and even enthusiastic hording. Broccoli, another member of the highly productive cruciferous family, is the flower of the cabbage. When well prepared, it’s crunchy, bright, complex and uniquely flavorsome. A gift to the United States from Italian immigrants, it’s hard to believe that broccoli only became popular here in the early 20th century. Now the U.S. is the third largest producer in the world, just behind China and India, broccoli, as with most every vegetable, is best (and surprisingly sweet) when just harvested from your own garden. If you don’t have the space to grow it, your next best bet is your local organic farmers’ market. Whether you love broccoli with a passion, or hold your nose and choke it down, you owe it to yourself to try it fresh from the garden, when it becomes a revelation.—Joe & Judith

Varieties Grown

De Cicco, Belstar, Gypsy, Blue Wind, Calabrese, Happy Rich

Seed Source

What I’m Wearing

To a grower, broccoli appears to be an overly dressed crop, with its tall, bushy nature and large oblong leaves. However, almost magically, this overcoat peeled back reveals a lobed, multi-faceted crown of absolute intrigue.

Tasting Notes

With its sweet high notes and sulfurous body, broccoli might be the perfect vegetable. Harvested fresh and cooked gently, it has an incredibly complimentary crunchy and creamy texture.

How to Grow

• We start with young plants seeded into trays in the greenhouse about 4-6 weeks before transplanting. In the last few years, we have moved to seeding cruciferous vegetables into larger seed cells to give us a bigger, more mature root system for each transplant.

• Young seedlings are planted 12-18” between other plants in the row and 30-36” between rows. Broccoli plants are notorious for growing larger than one expects.

• Broccoli, like all cruciferous vegetables, has a high nitrogen fertility requirement. We amend the soil with additional nitrogen by broadcasting alfalfa meal, feather meal, and/or blood meal. Additional nitrogen and micronutrients can be delivered by watering with fish emulsion from sea fish.

• Timing is everything with a broccoli crop. Pay close attention to the number of days to harvest on the seed packet and scout your plants often. Here in the South, we have a tight spring and fall window for planting broccoli, with the exception of flowering broccoli such as Happy Rich, before the heat causes the plants to button up flower heads prematurely.

• This year we had an abundance of lepidopteran larvae, such as the cabbage looper. These caterpillars can chew up the leaves of your young plants quickly. We use floating row cover to shield our young broccoli crop, but if an infestation occurs, you can use BT, or bacillus thuringiensis. This bacterium affects the digestion of certain caterpillars.

• Watch your broccoli crowns closely once they emerge. You’ll want to harvest them full-sized, but before the buds on the crown begin to open. Most varieties produce additional side shoots for a longer harvesting season.

Next Up

Garden to Table: Cauliflower

Check out our HGTV advice for both growing and cooking versatile cauliflower in our Garden to Table feature.

Garden to Table: Mixed Lettuce

Lettuce is one of the best dressed vegetables at market.

A Stock of Stalks: 4 Asparagus Varieties

Asparagus is the crop that keeps on giving. Try out one of these varieties in your garden.

Garden to Grill: Grilled Asparagus

You may never go back to steaming with this flavor-packed recipe.

Spring Soup Shindig

Dig into this sampler of seasonal favorites and find a spring soup that suits your tastes.

Garden to Table: Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts offer the taste of a cabbage’s sweet, blanched heart in every singular blossom bite.

Garden to Table: Eggplant

Eggplant produces very well and over a long period.

Grow Your Own Salad Garden

Learn how to grow crisp greens and veggies for homemade salads.

Grow Your Own Popcorn

Pop your own! Grow this classic snack in your garden for fresh flavor the store-bought stuff can't match.

Planting Asparagus

Asparagus takes two years to produce abundant harvests but is definitely worth the wait.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.

Related Pages