Purple-sprouting broccoli has great flavour, a long harvesting season and is extremely good for you. A single portion provides half your daily requirement of carotenoids, plus high levels of folic acid and vitamins A and C.
Read our Fact File on purple sprouting broccoli.
If you choose the right varieties, and time your seed sowing well, you can keep harvesting your crops from autumn through to early summer the following year. Purple-sprouting broccoli is extremely hardy, tolerating temperatures as low as -12°C. Sow in March to harvest in early winter, or from April to mid-June for harvesting from January to May.
Like other brassicas, purple-sprouting broccoli thrives in a fairly heavy, alkaline soil. Avoid growing it on an exposed site, where the wind will buffet the stems and loosen the soil around the roots.
You Will Need
- Purple-sprouting broccoli seeds
- Multi-purpose, peat-free compost
- 9cm pots
Sow the seeds into small pots or multi-cell trays, using a good quality multi-purpose or loam-based seed and cuttings compost. Once they’re large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out and transplant them into single 9cm pots, watering in well.
Fork the soil over, removing large stones, debris and perennial weeds. Bulky organic matter is essential on lighter soils – even on heavy soil, it’s worth adding to improve moisture retention and texture. You may need to add lime if your soil is acidic. Brassicas dislike loose soil, so firm lightly with your foot.
Transplant out when the plants are 7-9cm tall. Water them well before removing from their pots, and plant them 50-60cm apart, with a similar distance between the rows. Water again after planting and firm each rootball in well. Grow six plants if you want enough broccoli to feed a family of four.
Keep the soil moist at all times and remove weeds to reduce competition. If growth is slow and stems of purple buds fail to appear, use a liquid feed to prompt them. Be sure to cover with fleece or mesh to keep out insects and birds.
Harvesting purple sprouting broccoli
Harvest when the flower shoots are well developed but before the flowers have actually opened. Cut the central spear with a sharp knife first as this encourages the side shoots to develop quickly. Regular picking of the sideshoots will extend the cropping time.