I was always a weird child. We took advantage of the hot lunches at school, and when spinach or broccoli showed up on the menu, I just really enjoyed them, much to the disgust of my fellow fourth graders.
I think maybe this was because since we lived in the mountains in Colorado and it was a long way to Safeway, my mother shopped for groceries only once every two weeks. She was committed to providing us with a balanced diet, and so there were always vegetables on the table, and they were always out of the frozen food section. They also were always the least expensive varieties, so we had corn, green beans, carrots, peas, peas and carrots and mixed vegetables served on a regular basis. Spinach and broccoli were occasional treats.
Anyway, for whatever reason, I have always loved my vegetables, and broccoli is one of my favorites. It wasn’t until I started growing my own that broccoli achieved the status of a love affair. The difference between broccoli that you grew yourself and picked a few minutes before it was steamed and the broccoli that has travelled all the way across the country to a warehouse, sat around there and then travelled some more to live in the cooler of a supermarket for several days before you actually purchase it is indescribable.
I’m sure if I had know the sweetness and tenderness of fresh broccoli earlier in my life, I would have committed more garden space to it sooner.
Nutritionally speaking, broccoli is one of the dieter’s friends. It is packed with all sorts of nutrients including vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, lots of potassium and even sports a complete array of amino acids, which makes it a decent protein source. Of course, there are also cancer fighting antioxidants and fiber to keep your colon happy. All of this benefit with relatively few calories: 24 calories per one cup serving.
When you start growing broccoli, you discover that you are not the only being in the world who thinks it is tasty and nutritious. Believe me, I have watched my broccoli being consumed by cabbage looper caterpillars, and corn ear worms are not averse to feasting on broccoli either.
As an organic gardener, I will not douse my vegetables with poisons. Over the years I have tried diatomaceous earth with limited success. Bt is something that works, but you have to keep applying it. Over the years, what I have found that works perfectly is the floating row cover.
Here is a shot of floating row cover in action.
It acts as a physical barrier to the bugs. Since they can’t get through it to lay their eggs, there are no caterpillars munching the broccoli. I also use it to protect my eggplants from flea beetles. I cover my sprouting beans and peas to keep the blue jays from eating the sprouts. This year I am using it as a light shade to keep the tomatoes from burning up.
As you can see, I have it deployed over hoops. The hoops are not really necessary, the fabric is so light it will rest gently on the plants and not bother them. But I like the way the hoops look and also with the row cover stretched over the hoops I have discovered I can water right through it.
Here is my broccoli patch, approximately five days ago. I have the row cover pulled back for picking and weeding.
Despite the hot weather, my broccoli is doing just fine. I plant a variety called Calabrese sprouting, and once you have picked the main heads the plants continue making side shoots in great profusion.
This is the picking I made that day. It is the third picking of side shoots I have made. Some of these are over three inches in diameter; not bad for a side shoot.
I made a delicious salad out of this. First you lightly steam the broccoli. Then you lightly toss it in olive oil and roast it at 450 until it browns. Then you toss it in a mixture of 1/4 c soy sauce, 1/4 c rice vinegar, 2 T sesame oil (I used roasted sesame oil), a little salt and pepper, and 4 T toasted sesame seeds. At least that is what the recipe I found on the Food Source site told me. I thought that sounded a little bland, so I added about 1T honey, and chopped 1 T ginger and 1T garlic and added that to the dressing.