The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Home grown Purple Sprouting broccoli

Photo of our purple sprouting brocolli grown by us and ready to harvest

Purple sprouting broccoli is easy to grow

If more people tasted home grown purple sprouting broccoli they would surely cultivate it. You would see it on London balconies, in country herbaceous borders and standing proud in every kitchen garden in the land. Home grown does not have the slight limpness and bitterness of the supermarket stuff. It’s sweet and delicate and melt in the mouth.

The only problem with this vegetable is that it takes a year to mature. The seeds are planted towards the end of April and the long-ish wait puts people off. I reckon most people plant it, loose the seed packet and when it is not producing florets in the autumn the plants are hoiked out and thrown into the compost bin. It has the reputation of being a difficult vegetable. It is easy. Best germinated and grown on before planting out, it requires very little attention. It attracts the cabbage white butterfly and once you have dealt with this it is basically plain sailing until the harvest in the Spring. The only problem is that you don’t have enough.

To get a decent harvest, with many forays down the garden trug in hand, you need at least twelve plants and these take up quite a bit of space (2′-3′ apart 2.5′- 3.5′ between rows). The cropping season is short (four weeks), but you can extend this by harvesting regularly and growing early and late varieties. Then you can feast from March until well into May.

Despite these drawbacks I wouldn’t dream of not growing purple sprouting broccoli. At the moment we foster John Coe’s donated plants (mid season). They can be blanched and frozen, which I think I might do this year.
Broccoli is a cut and come again vegetable. The more you crop the more it produces. We didn’t twig this the first year and the season was so short that even the optimistic Danny was a bit disappointed.

The purple bobbles on the florets are in fact buds. If you leave them on the plant they will open into tiny flowers and the plant will not produce any more florets.

It’s one of the most flavoursome of vegetables. It stands beside asparagus and globe artichokes in my book. But at this time of year it is the first tasty, fresh surprise. Rushed from the kitchen garden to simmering saucepan, it’s a delight. I’m not keen on loads of veg but I love these tasty heads in a stir fry or snuggled beside slices of one of Danny’s superb Sunday roasts. It’s also heartening to see the plants standing stoically throughout the winter when most of the kitchen garden is bare.

It was so dry last summer that our purple sprouting broccoli went in very late (end of August). The plants are not nearly as big as last year. A couple of weeks ago they showed no signs of sprouting when John Coe and I examined them. This morning I spotted the first purple heads as I nipped past to open the greenhouse door.

I rushed back to the house to trumpet the news. Danny was shaving and gave the sort of resonant shriek that should always herald the arrival of this wonderful vegetable.

White sprouting broccoli is worth growing too. It has a more delicate taste than the purple but is less hardy.

Unwins has a good PSB variety available here.
Also Thompson and Morgan are always worth checking out as they stock several varieties including the white one.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Abi

    I’m not sure if they can be grown in pots but they can be planted virtually anywhere in the garden – harvest time is April. You could try them in growbags which is a sort of halfway house between pot and border. I’d put in max 3 to a grow bag.

    They need to be tranfered asap and give them a feed (tomato food) to settle them in.

  2. Help!

    I bought 8 plugs in September and (in the absence of my planned raised veg bed and in light of a hasty promise to my other half to grow his favourite vegetable!) just re-planted them straight away into larger pots without much thought about what I would then do with them. They’re still quite small (only 4/5 leaves). The pots won’t be large enough to keep them in until harvest time.

    I’d appreciate some advice about what to do next as I suspect I’ve properly mucked it up so far!!! Will learn my lesson for next year 🙂

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hello bdg

    Yes I agree with you we are growing this in eaarnest ATM. 46 PSB plants and 16 white SB.

    Really fresh it’s much sweeter than the store bought stuff.

  4. I think this broccoli is the best. It tastes great, has a long harvest period, and is one of the first plants ready for harvest in spring. I’m a bit lazy and often leave this plant for another year when it produces again, but not as much as the first time around. The tender leaves are edible like kale so another good reason to leave the plants through another winter.

  5. Hi dawn
    What does F1 mean?

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Dawn

    Yes there is a long investment of time in PSB. That’s why it’s so expensive in the shops.

    Hello Tim

    If the seeds were F1 they will not come true next year. If they were just an ordinary seed it would be worth giving them a go.

  7. Have just dug up last years PSB and have kept and dried the seeds. Will these be okay to plant again or do I need to buy a new packet?

  8. I planted these young plants bought from a garden centre about three or four months ago will that make any difference? Will I still only get florets next year?

  9. Hi
    I planted purple sprouting broccloi plugs earlier this year and wondered from what I have read here whether I should expect any florets this year. I thought that by buying the plugs I might get them this year but up to now there is now sign of florets. Can Anyone help?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Dawn

      We plant out 6″ plantlets in July and harvest the crop on April of the next year.

  10. Fiona Nevile

    Hi James

    I’ve never had PSB florets before March of the following year. Having planted the baby plants in July.

    Some of our calabrese produced early florets this year.

    Hello Keith

    I’m going to try your method of planting the seeds earlier next year. Thanks for the tip!

    Hi Nick

    I’m so envious, lucky you. Definitely sowing seed earlier next year.

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