Thursday, January 14, 2016

2015 Year in Review - Brassicas

Top Row: Di Ciccio Broccoli, Di Ciccio side shoots, Batavia Broccoli, Batavia side shoots
Row 2: Apollo Brokali, Atlantis Brokali, Spigariello Foglia Riccia, Spigariello Foglia Liscia
Row 3: Romanesco broccoli, Sicilian Cauliflower, Express Red Cabbage, Pixie Cabbage
Row 4: Purple Peacock Broccoli, Lacinato Kale, Little Jade Napa Cabbage, Tronchuda Beira

When accounted for as a group the large leafy and heading brassicas - broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco broccoli, cabbage, and kale were star producers - the group produced about 160 pounds for the year. The generally mild weather here, neither too hot nor too cold makes for good year round brassica production. I could have grown even more but I don't eat them as much in the summer and early fall because I enjoy the summer vegetables so much. There are other brassicas that I grew, such as arugula and turnips, that I'll be grouping in different reviews such as salad vegetables and roots.

We love broccoli here and last year I grew 7 different varieties if you include the broccoli/gai lan cross that is often referred to as brokali or broccolini. I use the brokali interchangeably with the sprouting broccolis that I grow. The list includes one of my long time favorites, the heirloom Di Ciccio, and a broccoli/kale cross called Purple Peacock, and 2 varieties of brokali - Apollo and Atlantis, and 2 leafy sprouting broccolis - Spigariello Foglia Liscia and Spigariello Foglia Riccia, and a standard heading type broccoli called Batavia.

Di Ciccio isn't a huge producer, the 6 plants that I've had this year produced 9.3 pounds, but I like it because it is good tasting and if I'm careful about how I harvest the shoots it can produce over a very long season. My fall planting is still producing side shoots. The brokali varieties did well, 2 Atlantis plants produced 4.5 pounds of shoots and 3 Apollo plants have produced 6.9 pounds to date. If I had to choose between the two of them I think Atlantis produces better side shoots. Perhaps I'll do a side by side test this year to see if that impression is correct. Purple Peacock is a modest producer, the three plants gave me 4.3 pounds of shoots. I grow it mostly because it is so pretty. The Spigariello varieties are grown as much for their leaves as their heads. The Liscia variety has strappy smooth edged leaves. When it produces heads they look a lot like rapini. The Riccia variety has frilly leaves. I had one plant from my spring planting that has refused to form heads, it just keeps growing long branches covered with short leafy shoots which is what you see in the collage. It will be interesting to see what it does this spring.

Batavia stands out as a big producer. I sowed 2 rounds of Batavia, one in May and the second in July for a total of 5 plants. Those 5 plants produced nearly 22 pounds of heads and side shoots and the second round of plants still has some side shoots developing. The first side shoots on Batavia are more like small heads and once those secondary heads are cut those side shoots will produce more small shoots. It's a pretty amazing broccoli and I will definitely be growing it again next year.

Romanesco, so called broccoli, which is more like cauliflower but is really a unique vegetable in its own right. I love the stuff but it is a space hog. Fortunately the best time to grow it is in through fall for early winter production. I can usually find room for a few plants in the garden. The photo in the collage is the best of the heads I harvested last January and February. I think I had 5 plants and the heads ranged in size from 5 pounds down to 1.25 pounds. One aspect of my record keeping is that I need to keep better track of how many plants I set out.  I'm still waiting for the Romanesco that I sowed seeds for on July 10 and set out in the garden on August 19 to start forming heads, they're late this year.

Buttoning Cauliflower

In 2014 I had great success with a variety of cauliflower called Amazing Taste. In 2015 all the Amazing Taste buttoned, probably because of unusually warm weather. I harvested the tiny heads but didn't bother to photograph the harvests. I also tried a Sicilian Purple cauliflower that got to be huge and produced funky heads. Weird stuff and I thought it might also be because of the warm weather. I've got more in the garden now that I was hoping would produce a fall crop, but one of the humongous plants is just now starting to produce a tiny head - very disappointing. I don't think Sicilian cauliflower will be back. It wasn't a great year for cauliflower, I guess it was beginner's luck in 2014, or maybe I'll blame the weather.

I had really good cabbage production for the spring - 55 pounds of Express Red, Pixie, Little Jade and Tronchuda Beira combined. But I had no cabbage harvests for the fall and if I don't get on it soon I won't have any for spring either.

Only one variety of kale made it into the garden last year. Lacinato was actually a holdover from 2014, producing in January through March when it bolted. Those holdovers did well though, producing over 8 pounds of greens. But I had no kale harvests for the fall, nor for this winter.

I'll give myself a B- grade for growing brassicas this year. I really fell down on the job getting a fall planting of cabbage, kale, and cauliflower into the garden. The really shameful thing is that I sowed the seeds and had seedlings ready to set out and then I just didn't get them into the garden. We  had plenty of broccoli, too much really, so that wasn't great planning on my part either. And my timing was off with the Brussels Sprouts. I had hoped to be harvesting the sprouts by the end of November (Thanksgiving), but totally missed the mark. I'll chalk that up to my inexperience with growing Brussels Sprouts, it's been at least 10 years since my last attempt which was a complete failure. At least I'm harvesting some of them now and though they are small they are nice and firm and good tasting. I'll see if I can improve my sprouts timing this year. Overall it wasn't a bad year for brassicas, but I know I could have done better.

Next up in the Review Parade is the Curcurbit family - squash and cucumbers.


  1. Your harvest figures put mine to shame! Those sorts of numbers must make you more or less self-sufficient in veg, surely? I'm going to have another go at Red Cabbage this year, after a pause of 2 years. I know it's not normally economically viable, because it's cheap in the shops, but growing it is very rewarding.

  2. One of the things I love the most about your brassicas is the distinctive variety. I harvested 17 lbs from 7 Arcadia plants and thought that was impressive, but it pales to your 22 lbs from the Batavia - wow!

  3. Wow... your Brassicas are so various and looks awesome! Thank for sharing this lesson.

  4. Ever tried Purple sprouting broccoli? I usually have a few plants out and am in the same zone as you but in SoCal so hotter. Found the standard OP varieties didn't do too well without a cold snap to get them flowering but some of the newer hybrids have done well and don't seem to be phased by the lack of a frost.

    1. I have and gave up on them, they are total aphid magnets in my garden, absolutely disgusting...

  5. The photo collage is great. I couldn't do one if I wanted to because I don't have photos of the individual vegetables. I'm going to try a different brassica strategy this year and you have provided a road map. Maybe a fast, small headed variety like Blue Wind, some brokali varieties, and maybe Spigariello Liscia.


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