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.

  Leave a reply


  1. Dave Cummerson

    Ignorant of the requirements we planted out some small plants during early summer. The plants have grown vigorously and some are now 3ft high. Yesterday I noticed a couple of plants have formed small purple florets atop the main rowing stem. Do I start to harvest now to promote the side shoots or is time to abandon ship and start again next year?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Dave

      Oh lucky you! Early PSB. Yes nip off the top shoots on the two plants and you should get side shoots soon.

  2. Alan Springell

    When I was a young man in England I grew Purple Sprouting and it was marvellous, especially for the young children. So now in Australia I have tried to grow it again. I planted my seedlings out in early August and now, by 9 Nov they are huge plants. We were hoping to see a crop of sprouting soon but if this is to happen in our Spring that will be 5 to 6 months from now! Is there something we can do to cause the sprouting to occur early such as nipping out the head of the plant?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Alan

      I don’t think that you can nip out the top of the plant until it has florets. Sometimes ours grow huge by late October and finally produce the florets the next spring. Keep an eye on them as you might be lucky like Dave who has early shoots 🙂

  3. Great advice all. Growing it in Australia, planted seeds in late Summer Feb11. The leaves are huge. I haven’t tried eating the leaves, any suggestion on how to cook the leaves?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Peter

      Cook the leaves just like cabbage or spring greens

  4. I grew my psb from seed and planted it out in April. I have already had one harvest from it and am waiting for the new florets to mature a little. Does anyone know if I should prune any of the leaves back as they seem disproportionately large?

  5. My PSB have been really hardy, they survived (all but a few that rotted), during a very cold winter without being protected, and a couple that had soggy stems that I expected to die off sprang back to life. I’ve even got one still going great guns after being snapped in the wind and being held up by canes. Not quite on the ball though with the harvesting, I picked a carrier bag full yesterday but a couple of the plants have now flowered. Good experience though, is very rewarding to grow your own.

    Happy gardening.

  6. Emma Craig-West

    i know…i was gutted! Will try that. Thanks.

  7. Emma Craig-West

    🙁 I just pulled up all my sprouting broccoli thinking it had rotted (some of it had.. ) just to find new buds on a main stem! these are small purple buds of around 1 – 2cm or so. Can i rescue this somehow? there are no roots left on the stem and they will die shortly i think.

    Any suggestions, or have i killed it completely?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Emma

      What bad luck 🙁
      You could try standing it in a bucket of water. Snap off all the florets and see whether anymore come.

  8. Alexandra

    I planted my first batch of PSB about 8 weeks ago, and blow me, one of them is already displaying a little purple head. I thought they weren’t ready until next Feb!! They’re already over 3 feet high and thick as anything – I guess they like the chicken manure. From the comments on here I guess I’d best get snipping away before it goes to seed. I’ve planted way too many and they’re all bunched up together at the moment after a very badly planned two one week stints away very close to each other. I need to clear a new patch in the never ending uncultivated jungle before I can give them the space they need though!!

  9. Stephanie

    In my first year of PSB-ing slugs devoured the small plants but then following year, because the slugs weren’t interested in the roots, they popped back up, so don’t depair if your PSBs get munched.

    This year I’ve let one go to seed – not sure if the seeds are the whole pods or if I have to break them open to get at the individual seeds? Is there any chance of me growing further plants from the seeds? If so any advice?

  10. I have 10 inch high plants ready to put in the garden, which is small. They look healthy. Should I put them in now (early May) or grow them on a bit? (Please see above, I am near Vienna and this is the first time I’ve grown PSB).

Leave a Reply to Brad Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

2,239,453 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Copyright © 2006-2012 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder