True story- last December I harvested broccoli, in the snow, for Christmas Eve dinner. It was my second year of broccoli, and I had a lovely, protected area for my vegetable garden, tucked into a corner next to the house. Broccoli loved the sandy soil and took over, seeding itself until I could barely tell which variety was which, and it eventually took over a quarter of the space. We didn’t mind, though, as we love broccoli and eat it at least twice a week- an ounce of broccoli has as much calcium as an ounce of milk. But when I stomped outside in my dress and snow boots, holding a pair of scissors and my colander, I thought it was absolutely crazy that I was harvesting the last of my broccoli in the snow.
I learned was that broccoli is very hardy- it can germinate in temperatures as low as 40°F. If you are direct sowing your broccoli seeds, you can plant your first crop about two weeks before your last spring frost, and then your second crop about 80 days before your first fall frost. Broccoli thrives in full sun and moist, fertile soil with a bit of acidity. Because broccoli loves moisture, mulching is highly recommended; the mulch will also help keep weeds away and keep the soil temperature down. The shallow roots of broccoli mean that, once it’s growing, do not do much cultivating as you can damage the roots. As for harvesting, I was always taught to harvest in the morning, before the soil heats up- my grandma said that made for the best tasting broccoli. I must admit that I usually end up harvesting right before I make dinner, and I don’t notice a difference in the taste. Always harvest broccoli when the buds are firm and tight- before the heads flower. When you harvest the main head, side shoots will continue to form so you can harvest for several weeks from one broccoli plant. Also, store the harvested broccoli in your refrigerator for up to 5 days, or blanch and freeze for up to a year.
Gurney’s carries a lot of broccoli varieties, but one stands out- Gurney’s Choice Coronado Crown Hybrid Broccoli. This particular variety has big, gorgeous, blue-green heads but also sweet stalks- and I normally am not a stalk fan. Because Coronado Choice Crown Hybrid is fairly heat-tolerant, is a great choice for all of our gardeners- North or South.
A new, unique variety Gurney’s is offering is Blue Wind Broccoli. This variety has gorgeous powder-blue foliage and tightly packed heads that continue producing side shoots once harvested. The best part? This variety produces early, ready to harvest in just 49 days from planting, making it a great option for the established gardener who is ready to try something new and have quick, tasty results.