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. Hey, i planted my 1st PSB plants last year 2009, the packet said do not touch till next year (this year 2010) However end of summer we noticed some lovely looking purple heads had a small debate and decided we couldnt wait so picked and enjoyed them!! This year we are so far enjoying picking lots and lots of purple heads. My advise is if anything grows in the 1st year pick it and enjoy it, you will only get one crop though. They are very hardy and mine survived being eaten my caterpillers of slugs, not sure which will they were nearly just stalks and they servived a very heavy winter when they were covered in snow for ages and had temps of about -15 some nights.
    My question is do I keep the plants in or after the two years take them out and start again. I have more seeds germinating this year as my 5 plants grown last year arnt enought (tastes soooo good, more is required) but I dont know how long the plants last. Can anyone help???


  2. Indigo woman

    OK – thanks I won’t put them on the compost just yet then!

  3. Indigo woman

    I planted small PB plugs last October in a raised bed. The late planting solved the problem of caterpillars. By Christmas they were about a foot high but grew no more during the cold and snowy Jan/feb. But then in March they romped ahead and I picked lots of lovely florets from mid March. Still some being produced now (end of April) However two of the 12 plants produced no florets despite growing well – anyone any idea why?

    • Fiona Nevile

      I think that the ones that have not produced florets will shoot a bit later on.

  4. I found a one-year-out-of-date packet of PSB I’d bought in the UK, so planted it and it has germinated I am so excited. I live in Austria, near Vienna, so will be feeling my way in terms of getting it through the winter woes, but Carole’s post inspired me with optimism. I wonder why the Europeans haven’t cottoned on to this unbelievable veggie? Has anyone had experience of collecting (viable)seeds?

  5. Further to the queries re hardiness of PSB in very low temperatures. I live in the South West of France and we recently had temperatures as low as -8 and thick snow. I looked at my plants and they looked just like frozen veg, all limp and very dark green. I was so unhappy, all that waiting for nothing.. However 2 days after the weather warmed up a bit, they were just as they were before. Now I just have to wait until they are ready to eat..

  6. The Dipel powder (Bt) has always worked for me against any caterpillars on Cruciferae.

  7. I sowed PSB indoors in march. Planted out in may thinking it was radish, opps. New to gardening. It grew prolificly. One flowered midsummer, thought it must have bolted. Then an older neighbour said it takes 18 months to grow. So I decided to leave it for amusement value as much as anything. Its now November and the original flowering one has gone to seed, pods like peas, another is flowering, good luck to the bees if they are still around. And another is sprouting in the centre, buds. Thought it would look like broccolli in the supermarkets, except it would be purple. Not. Did have the caterpillar flies, but no harm, sprayed it a few times organically. The rest are smaller and I reckon if I cover them fron the birds, I will get something in the spring!! Very confused by PSB.

  8. Well glad I read this as I was heading out to haul up those broccoli with all their leaves and nothing else… first year of growing and have had corn and cauliflower etc and thought these had failed.. guess will have to wait till April!!!!

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Abi

    As they are still quite small they may need a bit of protection until they get established. Some of ours went in early july and are now 4′ tall. Others went in in september and they are about a foot tall.

  10. Great! Thanks ever so much…..will I have to take special measures to protect them over winter?

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