History of broccoli
The consumption of these cruciferous is widespread since ancient times, but until the beginning of 1900 was a vegetable consumed almost exclusively in Italy and virtually unknown abroad.
Brassica oleracea was spread all over the world by emigrants (in particular those bound for the United States). From the 1950s it became popular in American kitchens as well, then it became known in Europe and became popular again in the mother country. It is in fact only since the 80s and 90s that it is commonly found in commerce everywhere and has become a vegetable of common use in all regions.
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In recent years it has been discovered that broccoli is a precious plant for our health. It is in fact low in calories, but at the same time rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals.
In particular, it can provide us with more vitamin C than oranges. At the same time it has a good supply of vitamins A, E, B and K. A single 100 g portion of this vegetable is able to meet the daily needs of vitamin C and K: this aspect is very important during the winter months as it is very commonly found on the market, among other things at an affordable price.
The content of mineral salts such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron is also good. The sulphur compounds (the smell of which can be perceived during cooking) seem to have anticancer effects.
How to cultivate
The cultivation of broccoli is quite simple and satisfying for everyone. To include them in our garden we can choose to buy plants from specialized nurseries or dedicate ourselves to sowing. In the latter case we will certainly have more freedom of choice in terms of variety.
The temperate climate zones are the best for growing cabbage. This horticultural area, in fact, can be seriously damaged by late frosts, which cause the vegetative stasis and in the most serious cases the death of the plant. They do not like too humid soils with water stagnation, an excessive period of drought can cause the loss of the harvest.
The best soil for cabbages is of medium consistency, with a good amount of organic matter. Prepare the soil with a deep milling or spading, during which it would be appropriate to make some organic substance (humus, manure). Form a plan with the help of a rake, cover the ground if possible with mulch to avoid the onset of weeds. Transplant the plants, taking care to also bury the collar. Watering must be periodical and in function of the climatic conditions.
It is advisable to carry out roofing fertilizations at least 2 or 3 times with complex ternary fertilizers.
IL BROCCOLO IN BREVE
Type of plant
Cruise, annual or biennial
45 cm-1 m
From 50 to 80 cm
Resistance to cold
Deep, clayey, well-drained
Distance between rows
Distance in the row
Germination: time and temperature
6-8 g/ 10-25°C
How to sow and harvest
Sowing should be carried out in the period from April to June, depending on the variety. They are transplanted a month later, being careful to choose the strongest plants and discard the weakest. You can buy the plants ready for transplantation in the garden and in specialized centers.
Usually it is done using jars or honeycomb containers. These should be filled with a specially designed soil, slightly moistened, but do not compress it too much. In each container we will insert two seeds, covering them with a layer of about 3-4 mm of soil. We vaporize abundantly. In order to obtain the germination in the shortest possible time, the best thing is to place the pots in the open air, in a luminous area, but without direct sun.
Let’s water frequently and, if necessary, cover for a good part of the day with a plastic film.
Once the plants have been obtained, we shall carry out the thinning out, leaving only one specimen, the most vigorous, per alveolus.
The sowing period is very variable: it depends essentially on the variety and soil and climate conditions of our area. We carefully read the indications on the label.
As a general rule, we keep in mind that in the Centre-South we sow from June to October. In the North the period is more limited, from June to July at the latest.
The broccoli calendar
Sowing in the Centre-South
Sowing in the North
Planting is very simple, especially for seedlings from honeycomb trays. The presence of even a small earthen bread protects from the risks of transplanting and guarantees excellent results.
It will be sufficient to extract the individual (possibly by pressing with a pencil from the drain hole), make a hole in the ground with a shovel or a planting device for bulbs, insert the root part and compact well with your hands.
The distance between broccoli depends essentially on the variety. Some have a greater development and therefore it is good that between the rows there are about 70 cm, on the row about 50. The smaller ones instead will have distance between rows of about 60 cm and 40 in a row.
Harvesting must be carried out when the cabbage is fully ripe. Harvests must be climbed due to the poor conservation of the cabbage (it is recommended to cultivate more varieties with a diversified maturation).
The biggest problem for cabbages is definitely the larvae. There are larvae that eat leaves, roots and collars. If present in large quantities, they can completely destroy the crop. Among the most common are the guinea pig larva, the fly larva, the larva of the cabbage root, the larva of the cabbage noctua. Other parasites that attack the cabbage are waxy aphids that cause the curling of the leaves and the malformation of the buds.
The best cure for larvae is the use of products based on pyrethrum and diozinone, substances that can also be used in the fight against aphids.
Cabbage plants can get sick at any stage of their life. As soon as they are planted, they can suffer rottenness at the collar, which is manifested by the blackening of the collar of the plant. The best thing to do, should such a disease occur, is to disinfect the soil before planting new plants.
When the plant is more developed, the diseases that affect it most are: alternariosis of the cruciferous (it manifests itself with necrosis spotted with oil), herniated cabbage (the plant develops small growths on the stem that lead to the rottenness of the plant), rotten cabbage (the leaves first turn yellow and then rot). To prevent these diseases it is always advisable to first disinfect the soil with fungicides.
If the disease attack occurs when the crop is in progress, the plants should be sprayed with fungicides containing sulfur and ziram.
Soil and fertilization
Cruciferae prefer medium texture soils, deep, rich in organic matter, but at the same time well drained. Acidic and boron-poor substrates, which would produce alterations in the inflorescence, must be avoided.
Just before inserting the seedlings you will have to work the area up to about 30 cm deep. If desired, it is possible to build up bumps that are about 20 cm high so that the draining of the water is facilitated, especially in the case of very compact and clayey soils.
To enrich the area is good, at the beginning of the previous crop (usually something very demanding, such as zucchini) distribute 300-350 kg of mature manure every 10 square meters, incorporating them carefully. Before planting we can supplement with a fertilizer with a high content of phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen (ammonium nitrate) should be administered only during the growth of the plant, depending on the speed of growth.
Usually we intervene every 10 days from when the plants are well rooted. It is then necessary to suspend when the heads are formed to avoid the accumulation of nitrates, very harmful to health.
In the first few days, it is important to water frequently in order to favour the rooting of the plants on site and to overcome any stress caused by transplanting.
Irrigation to obtain heads of good consistency and taste is good to irrigate with a certain frequency, but in small quantities. It is important that the substrate never dries completely. We can spread the water either in the rain or in furrows placed laterally. An excellent solution to save water resources is the preparation of dripping wings or porous pipes.
Towards autumn, if we have not used non-permeable plastic mulchings, the irrigation can also be neglected, since there will be no lack of rainfall.
Other very important treatments is to avoid the onset of pests that can steal light, water and nutrients from our crops. In order to eliminate the problem at the base, we can prepare plastic mulchings at the beginning of the cultivation.
These are of enormous help and help, in the coming of autumn, to keep the substrate warmer by encouraging the growth of broccoli.
Otherwise, we will have to weed the soil frequently, taking care not to ruin the plants. The foot of these plants can also be covered with natural material such as leaves or straw.
Approximations and associations
Broccoli benefits from being combined with many other plants: cut salad, spinach, as they have a repellent effect on the altica and ground flea. Other useful vegetables are tomatoes, celery and some aromatic ones: sage, rosemary, hyssop, thyme, mint and absinthe. All these are repellent towards the guinea pig, a real plague of the cruciferous.
The proximity of potatoes, garlic, onions, and all other cruciferous plants should be avoided. These, among other things, are very voracious and it is therefore absolutely necessary to avoid cultivating them in the same soil two years in a row. Ideally, they should be followed by legumes so that the area is given back a good amount of nitrogen.
Although they are easy to grow, broccoli is easily attacked by pests and cryptogams. The most common are the downy mildew, the cabbage hernia, the white rust, the dry rot, the alternariosis, all to be prevented by the rotations of the soil and the possible use of specific products.
Among the most fearsome animal parasites are the cockchafer, the guinea-fowl butterfly and the cabbage fly.
The guinea pig lays its eggs on the leaves. The larvae then feed on both these and the inflorescence, making the product unusable. It can be prevented by pyrethrins, pyrethroids or specific products for larvae permitted in organic farming.
The cabbage fly, on the other hand, feeds on the roots causing the yellowing and death of the plant. This one is also fought with specific products.
Variety of cabbage
The best known of the early varieties are the Calabrian (by far the most widespread), the Broccolo di Verona and the Primaticcio di Albano. Among the late ones, the Apulian, the Late Albanian and the Black of Naples are worth mentioning.
Broccoli – Brassica oleracea: Collection and preservation
It begins when the heads are well formed, but are still well compact, usually before the flowers begin to open. In most cases the plant will not be removed because it will be activated to produce other heads from the side jets.
Only the head or even the leaves at the base should be picked up, following the manufacturer’s advice.
Depending on the variety, geographical area and cold resistance, harvesting takes place in the open field from September to March. Every 10 m2 of cultivation is generally 10-20 kg of product.
Once harvested, the broccoli should be consumed as soon as possible in order to maintain all the organoleptic qualities. The ideal way to keep them is in the refrigerator compartment (by closing them with plastic film).
If desired, however, they can also be frozen: you must first cook them slightly, 5 minutes in salt water, and then cool them quickly with ice. They should then be placed in special bags.
The best way to cook them, however, is definitely the microwave, covered with the film: it takes a few minutes and remain crisp, not dispersing vitamins and minerals in the water.
They can also be pickled for storage in a jar.
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