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April Seasonal Table: Purple Sprouting Broccoli

purple sprouting broccoli, spring vegetables, organic gardening

Purple Sprouting Broccoli -  a great vegetable to grow in your garden.  Has a long harvest seson from February to April - the lean time when there is little fresh produce.

How to Grow and Harvest Purple Sprouting Broccoli (PSB)

  1. Sow seeds in small pots or a nursery tray.  Can aslo be sown outside in a seed bed.
  2. Once the seedlings are large enough, you can transplant them to individual pots and water well.
  3. Prepare the soil for planting by using a fork to loosen and turn the soil. Remove any large stones and weeds. PSB (like most of the brassica family) like firm soil - you can use your foot to firm up the soil.
  4. The Broccoli is ready to plant (normally July) once it has grown between 7-9cm tall. As with all plants, make sure to water them well before and after transplanting them.  If you are putting out bare-rooted plants be sure to trim the roots and leaves to encourage fresh growth and prevent drying out.
  5. They should be planted about 60cm apart to give them room to grow.  Make sure that the soil is nice and firm once they have been planted.
  6. Keep the soil moist and take measures to keep insects and birds away from the plants.
  7. Caterpillars will feed on brassicas, the most common are those of cabbage white butterflies. You will usually see the caterpillars, if not, you will see the holes they make in the leaves.  In mild attacks, or if you have only a few plants, you may be able to pick the caterpillars off (children are very good at this).  Netting can keep off butterflies and also birds.
    broccoli flowers 1 Broccoli allowed to flower - a treat for bees!
  8. Plants may need staking in exposed areas.  It is better to plant in a block rather than a row.  This also makes netting easier.
  9. Purple Sprouting Broccoli is ready to harvest when the flower shoots have developed but before they have actually opened. Cutting the sprout in the middle will encourage the side shoots to grow quicker.
  10. You must keep cutting the shoots to encourage the growth of new ones.  Plants will quickly go the flower in May - leave them in the ground for a week or two before digging up as the bees love them!

Health Benefits of Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Broccoli is a storehouse of many phytonutrients such as thiocyanates, indoles, sulforaphane, isothiocyanates, and flavonoids like beta-carotene cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Studies have shown that these compounds by modifying positive signaling at molecular receptor levels help protect against prostate, colon, urinary bladder, pancreatic, and breast cancers.

Fresh broccoli is an exceptionally rich source of vitamin-C; providing 89.2 mg or about 150% of RDA per 100 g. Further, it contains good amounts of  vitamin-A. 100 g fresh head provides 623 IU or 21 % of recommended daily levels. Together with other pro-vitamins like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and zeaxanthin, vitamin-A helps in maintaining the integrity of skin and mucosa. Vitamin-A is essential for healthy eyesight and helps prevent macular degeneration of the retina in the older adults.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli a rich source of vitamin-K and the B-complex group of vitamins like Niacin (vitamin B-3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), and riboflavin. Further, its florets also hold some amount of omega-3 fatty acids (Alpha linolenic acid-ALA).

Fresh heads are an excellent source of folates; contain about 63 µg/100 grams (provides 16% of RDA). Studies have shown that consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits rich in folates during pre-conception, and pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects in the newborns.

Finally, Purple Sprouting Broccoli it is also a good source of minerals like calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and phosphorus.

How to Cook with Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Purple sprouting broccoli a winter vegetable high in nutrients

Steaming or quickly stir frying are the best ways of cooking Purple Sprouting Broccoli. If the stalks are too thick, you can cut them in half so that they are not too tough.

To steam or boil - simply place in a steamer or boiling water for 5 - 9 minutes (until just tender, but keeps a bit of bite). They taste great with just a bit of butter and lemon juice drizzled over them and can work brilliantly as a side dish to any kind of food.

Can also be eaten raw in winter salads.

Broccoli with Sesame Seeds

  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and very finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Method

    1. Trim off any hard ends from the broccoli stalks as well as any very coarse leaves. Bring a large quantity of salted water to the boil and plunge in the broccoli. With the lid on, quickly bring the water back to the boil, then remove the lid and briskly simmer the broccoli for about 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly.
    2. Meanwhile, heat both oils in the pan over a medium heat. Fry the garlic for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the slices are light golden. Throw in the broccoli and fry it for 2-3 minutes, tossing frequently, until the stalks are piping hot and covered in the the garlicky oil.
    3. Serve immediately with the sesame seeds sprinkled over the top.

 

 

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