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BONNIE’S GARDEN – The King of Cool Season Veggies—Broccoli

By Bonnie Pega
Bonnie's Garden

Seeds for cool season veggies are in and I’ve already picked out my favorites. I always plant spinach and kale—they even make it over the winter here. I always plant Little Finger carrots—in a window box, no less. They’re a crunchy sweet mini-carrot that does particularly well in containers.

I always do either lettuces or a mesclun blend—I particularly like a mesclun blend called Chef’s Medley or one called Jazzy—both a mix of lettuces with spicy greens like arugula or mustard thrown in. And I always plant snap peas. I grow them in a couple of big pots on my deck. Nice days in the spring, I’d sit in my rocking chair and snack on those sweet crispy pods (if my grandkids don’t get them first). I’ll definitely do these this fall.

I always plant a few cabbages, beets, and cauliflower, but the real king has got to be broccoli. I love my broccoli. When I was a kid, I actually liked broccoli, as an adult, I love it. I eat it cooked or raw. And it’s so easy to grow my own.

Broccoli is a member of the cabbage family—and a relative to cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, etc. The botanical name is Brassica oleracea capitata. The name ‘broccoli’ comes from the Italian “broccolo” meaning the flowering head of cabbage.

Broccoli is native to the Mediterranean and was cultivated in Italy for more than a thousand years, but was virtually unknown in England until a few hundred years ago. It did not become popular in America until the 1920s, although Thomas Jefferson did grow some in his garden at Monticello.

I’ll start seeds for broccoli very soon. I’ll start them in little pots and move the pots into mostly shade on days when the temps are over 90 degrees. If I had a nice sunny window this time of year, I’d start them inside, but when the trees leaf out in the spring, my house becomes a green cave. It won’t get any direct sun until the leaves drop in the fall.

I’m debating on whether to plant my old stand-by, Waltham 29 or try either Romanesco or Summer Purple. Romanesco is a gorgeous chartreuse Italian heirloom that is supposedly a cross between cauliflower and broccoli—with the texture of cauliflower, but the flavor of broccoli. I bought several at our Farmers Market last fall and loved them. Purple broccoli is a pretty purple and is supposed to be a very robust and strong producer. I’ll let you know which one I go for.

When in doubt, always check the back of the seed packet for when to sow the seeds. Our first frost here in the Richmond area is around the third week in October.

Bring us any questions you have about your fall veggie garden. We’re here to help!

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