You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 9:53 a.m.

Broccoli: a cool (weather) crop that keeps on giving

By Jim and Janice Leach

Broccoli in colander.jpg

Janice Leach | Contributor

Broccoli is an easy to grow crop that continues to produce late in the growing season in Michigan. If you’d planted broccoli this summer, you could be having this for dinner, even in late October.

Broccoli is an attractive, sturdy plant that likes full sun, adequate water and good drainage. The main stem holds the plant upright, and staking is not necessary. We’ve found that broccoli has very few pests or growing problems. Our usual cultural practices of close planting, rotating crops, heavy mulching and monitoring for pests work well for broccoli.

One of the cool things about broccoli is its productivity. You can usually harvest a good central head in August, depending on planting time and weather conditions, but your broccoli plant is not yet done. If you let the plant continue to grow, you’ll be able to harvest a succession of florets of various sizes from around the main stem.

One strategy I’ve learned for continuing broccoli growth is to examine the plant regularly for flowering or bolting. If too much time lapses, the side stems can go to flower; the delicious green buds become rather pretty yellow flowers that do attract pollinators like bees but are not what I want to eat.

Broccoli is fairly forgiving, however. If flowers are trimmed off, the plant will return to making small broccoli heads. Broccoli can also bolt if the weather gets too hot, although it seems pretty tolerant of Michigan’s sometimes toasty summers. Again, if a plant starts sending up long bolting shoots, those can be trimmed and eaten, and the plant will return to its small head production. The plant gets rather leafy late in the season, so be sure to check under and behind leaves for buds.

Broccoli from the garden is best eaten raw or lightly steamed. Even the smaller leaves can be eaten as they are tender and delicious on homegrown broccoli plants. We generally avoid turning our wonderful, healthy broccoli into cheesy or creamy dishes and instead enjoy its flavors and nuances in simpler dishes.

Sometimes we like to dress-up steamed broccoli with a quick, easy and healthy dressing. Here are two of our favorites. Both start with broccoli either steamed or light boiled for 2 minutes then cooled under cold running water and drained.

Honey Mustard Dressing (from Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish)

1 tablespoon white miso

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon mustard, preferably Dijon

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 cup water

pinch black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to blend.

Dress broccoli just before eating because the sauce will dull the broccoli’s bright green color.

Broccoli Chinoise Dressing (from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book)

2 tablespoon Oriental sesame oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar or white whine vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon sugar

freshly ground black pepper to taste

red pepper flakes to taste

Combine the ingredients and pour over the broccoli. Toss to mix well.

Expand next summer's garden with an addition of broccoli. It's an easy-to-grow plant that provides on-going culinary rewards.

Janice and Jim Leach have been gardening together for close to 30 years. They tend a backyard plot in downtown Ann Arbor, where they try to grow as many vegetables and other plants as possible. For the last four years, they've published gardening tips, photos and stories at their 20 Minute Garden


Rork Kuick

Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 12:56 p.m.

I transplanted broccoli in April and it is still OK. Spinach is what I have to plant again in August, and it doesn't always work out too well. My really late vegies are often brussel sprouts, parsnips (unlike Ogden Nash, I find them edible) and leeks. It's typically American that both recipes involve 1) sweeteners, 2) acids. Soon to appear in every recipe for anything.


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 12:46 p.m.

There is an interesting article today on a recently developed hybrid of broccoli with greater nutrient levels and possible ability to lower cholesterol levels: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

The only problem is that you had to plant that broccoli back in August. Since no one sells fall crop transplants, you also have to either direct seed it or start it as a transplant yourself. But fall broccoli tastes better too. Broccoli doesn't mind frost, and it makes the florets sweeter. And the flowers are just as edible as the unopened florets - prettier too. You might not want to eat the seed pods, but those form a week or two after the flowers.

Jim and Janice Leach

Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 7:26 p.m.

I agree that fall broccoli does taste better. Ours hasn't lasted beyond frost before, but perhaps it will this year. It's amazing to me how our plants are still producing lots of side shoots. I'll give the flowers a try the next time they blossom before I harvest! Part of what I wanted to get across here -- and maybe I didn't!-- is that broccoli has a long growing season. We planted this particular broccoli way back in early June, when we got most of our transplants into the ground. These plants have a long life! If they are left growing, they'll keep producing small shoots. It is too bad that no one sells fall crop transplants because, with some planting, a gardener can get a second crop of some cool weather crops. That takes more planning than I've managed to do well, but it's something I aim to get better at. Thanks for your comments!