March is the month when produce from the previous year is starting to be in short supply and new veg hasn’t really surfaced its head yet. It is an extremely busy month on the farm with sowing in full swing. Most of our sowing is started in modular trays in polytunnels and when the plants are big enough they are transplanted outside.
It is with great anticipation that the first sprouting broccoli bursts forth. Sprouting broccoli really is the king of vegetables. It is planted in February/March the year before and takes a full 50 weeks from seed planting to harvesting. However, when it starts producing it is highly prolific. We grow an early purple sprouting and late purple sprouting variety and all in all we can expect to have fresh sprouting broccoli for 7 or 8 weeks. Once a plant is harvested it continually produces new shoots.
You will not see sprouting broccoli in supermarkets for several reasons. It needs to be eaten fresh as most of the goodness is contained in the sprout. It is very time consuming to harvest and mechanically there are no big machines to harvest it. So for once the small producer like us is on a level pegging with the bigger guys.
The plant itself is a mighty structure and generally once it is planted out and firmed in well it will thrive. Once it is established it can grow up to 4 foot high and it generally doesn’t pay any attention to weeds or pests. We grew it for the first time 3 years ago. At the time it was not too well known here, but now more and more people recognise it and want to try it.
Sprouting broccoli is the distant cousin of supermarket broccoli (whose correct name is actually calabrese). Calabrese was bred with supermarkets in mind, it is nutritious and has a relatively long shelf life of weeks. Sprouting broccoli on the other hand will last a week to ten days if it is treated right but no more. However the taste and the nutrient levels far exceed that of its cousin it contains much more antioxidants and phyto-chemicals than calabrese.
As a food it can be eaten raw in salads (for the biggest nutritional boost) or it can be lightly steamed. It is great in pasta too.
If you are a grower and you have some space than you can leave aside for a year, then give it a try and grow it. If you have never eaten it then try and source it and try it.
It will be in our boxes from March until mid way through April. So you can always try a box then and see what you think.
Green Earth Organics is based on a family run farm in Corrandulla, Galway. We run a box scheme that delivers fresh organic produce all over the Galway area and we also have a stall at the Oranmore and Moycullen market. If you are interested you can get more information by contacting Jenny at [email protected] or phoning 091-793768.