Fruit and Vegetables

Broccoli - Brassica oleracea

Broccoli - Brassica oleracea

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Broccoli is a vegetable of great interest both from the nutritional point of view and for their taste.
Their cultivation is rather simple and can give great satisfaction to all.
The name "cauliflower" indicates those types of cabbage grown not for their leaves, but for their inflorescences. The broccoli is therefore a flower ready to open and one of the most cultivated cabbages in Italy especially in the center and in the south. The scientific name is Brassica oleracea.
Brassica oleracea is a biennial plant, cultivated for its inflorescence which is the edible part. It may be yellowish or greenish in color, sometimes white. Very similar to cauliflower from which, however, it differs for the less regular shape, it reaches 30-40 cm in height and must be planted at a distance of 60-70 cm.

History of broccoli

The consumption of these crucifers is widespread since ancient times, but until the beginning of the 1900s it was a vegetable consumed almost exclusively in Italy and practically unknown abroad.
Brassica oleracea was spread throughout the world by emigrants (especially those to the United States). Starting in the 1950s, it also became popular in American kitchens, to then be known in Europe and to return as a result to the mother country. It is in fact only since the 1980s-90s that it is commonly found everywhere and has become a vegetable of common use in all regions.

Nutritional aspects

In recent years it has been discovered that broccoli is a precious vegetable for our health. It is in fact low in calories, but at the same time rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals.
In particular, it can provide more vitamin C than oranges. At the same time it has a good supply of vitamins A, E, B and K. Only one 100 g portion of this vegetable is able to satisfy the daily needs in vitamin C and K: this aspect is very important during the winter months since it is very commonly found on the market, among other things at a low price.
The content of mineral salts such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron is also good. The sulfur compound (the smell of which can be perceived during cooking) appears to have anti-tumor effects.

How to cultivate

Broccoli cultivation is quite simple and satisfying for everyone. To insert them in our garden we can choose to buy seedlings 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 cabbage cultivation. This vegetable, in fact, can be seriously damaged by late frosts, which cause vegetative stasis and in the most serious cases the death of the plant. They do not like too wet soils with water stagnation, an excessive period of drought can cause the loss of the harvest.
The best soil for cabbages is medium-textured, with a good amount of organic substance. Prepare the soil with a deep milling or digging, during which it would be appropriate to add organic matter (humus, manure). Form a surface with the help of a rake, cover the soil with mulch if possible to avoid the occurrence of weeds. Transplant the plants taking care to bury the collar too. Watering must be periodic and in function of the climatic conditions. It is advisable to carry out coverings at least 2 or 3 times with complex ternary fertilizers.

Type of plant
Crocifera, annual or biennial
Height 45 cm-1 m
Width From 50 to 80 cm
Culture Moderately easy
Need water Medium-high
multiplication seeds

Resistance to cold
exposure Sun-shade
ground Deep, clayey, well-drained
Distance between rows 60-80 cm
Distance in the row 40-60 cm
Germination: time and temperature 6-8 g / 10-25 ° C

How to sow and harvest

Sowing must take place in the period from April to June, depending on the variety. They transplant a month later, having the foresight to choose the strongest plants and discard the weakest. You can buy the plants already ready for transplanting in garden and specialized centers.
It is generally carried out using jars or alveolar containers. These should be filled with a specially designed, slightly moistened soil, but avoid compressing 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. To obtain germination in the shortest possible time the ideal is to place the jars outdoors, in a bright area but without direct sun. We frequently frequent and, if necessary, cover for a good part of the day with a plastic film.
Once the seedlings are obtained, we will have to thin out, leaving only one specimen, the most vigorous, for alveolus.
The sowing period is very variable: it depends essentially on the variety and the pedoclimatic conditions of our area. We carefully read the indications on the label.
In general we keep in mind that in the Center-South it is sown from June until October. In the North the period is more limited, from June until the maximum in July.


The planting is very simple, especially for seedlings deriving from alveolar trays. The presence of even a small earthen bread protects against the risks of transplantation 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 planter for bulbs, insert the root and compact well with the hands.
The distance between the 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 the row.


Harvesting should be carried out when the cabbage is fully ripe. The harvest must be scaled due to the poor conservation of the cabbage (it is advisable to cultivate more varieties with a diversified maturation).


The biggest problem for cabbages is definitely the larvae. There are some who eat the leaves, the roots, the collar. If present in large quantities they can completely destroy the harvest. Among the most widespread are the larva cavolaia, the larva of the fly, the larva of the cabbage root, the larva of the cabbage noctuid. Other parasites that attack the cabbage are the waxy aphids that cause the leaves to curl and damage the buds. The best treatment against 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 in all the vegetative stages. As soon as they are planted they can undergo the rot to the collar that is manifested by the blackening of the collar of the plant. The best thing to do, if such a disease should arise, is to disinfect the soil before planting new plants. When the plant is more developed, the diseases that most affect it are: cruciferous alternariosis (manifested by oil-stain necrosis), cabbage hernia (the plant develops small growths on the stem that lead to plant rot), cabbage rot (the leaves first turn yellow then rot). To prevent these diseases it is always advisable to first disinfect the soil with fungicides. If the attack of the disease occurs when the crop is now in place, the plants must be sprayed with fungicides containing sulfur and ziram.

Land and fertilizations

The crucifers prefer medium-depth soils, deep, rich in organic substance, but at the same time well-drained. Absolute substrates and those poor in boron that would produce alterations in the inflorescence should be avoided.
Just before inserting the seedlings you will have to work the area up to about 30 cm of depth. If you want you can make ditches about 20 cm high so that the drainage of the water is easier, especially in the case of very compact and clayey soils.
To enrich the area it is good, at the beginning of the previous crop (usually something very demanding, like courgettes) to distribute 300-350 kg of mature manure every 10 square meters, carefully incorporating them. Before planting we can supplement with a fertilizer with a high content of phosphorus and potassium. On the other hand, nitrogen (ammonium nitrate) should only be administered during plant growth, depending on the speed of growth. Usually every 10 days, the plants are well rooted. We must then suspend when the heads are formed to prevent the accumulation of nitrates, which are very harmful to health.

Crop care

In the first days it is important to water with a certain frequency to favor the local roots of the plants and overcome any transplant stress.
Irrigation to obtain heads of good consistency and flavor it is good to irrigate with a certain frequency, but in small quantities. It is important that the substrate never gets completely dry. We can sprinkle water both in rain and in lateral grooves. An excellent solution to save water resources is the arrangement of dripping wings or porous tubes.
Towards the autumn, if we have not used non-permeable plastic mulches, the irrigations can also be neglected, given that the rains will not be lacking.
Another very important cure is to avoid the onset of weeds that can steal light, water and nourishment to our crops. To eliminate the problem at the base we can prepare plastic mulches at the beginning of cultivation.
These are of enormous help and help, at the arrival of autumn, to keep the substratum warmer by favoring the growth of broccoli.
Otherwise we will have to deal with a certain frequency to weed the soil, being careful not to ruin the plants. The foot of these can also be covered with natural material such as leaves or straw.

Approaches and partnerships

The broccoli benefit from the combination with many other plants: cutting salad, spinach, since they perform a repellent action against the altica and the ground flea. Other useful vegetables are tomato, celery and some aromatic ones: sage, rosemary, hyssop, thyme, mint and wormwood. All these are repellent against the cabbage butterfly, a veritable plague of crucifers.
Instead, the proximity of potatoes, garlic, onion and all the other crucifers is to be avoided. These, by the way, are very voracious and we must therefore absolutely avoid growing them in the same land two years in a row. The ideal is to make them follow by legumes so that a good amount of nitrogen is returned to that area.

Cabbage diseases

Although they are easy to grow, broccoli is easily attacked by pests and cryptogams. The most common are downy mildew, cabbage hernia, white rust, dry rot, alternariosis, all to be prevented by ground rotations and the possible use of specific products.
Among the animal pests the most feared are the beetle, the butterfly cavolaia and the cabbage fly.
The cabbage plant lays its eggs on the leaves. The larvae then feed on both these and the inflorescence, rendering 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 plant to turn yellow and die. This too is fought with specific products.

Variety of cabbage

The most known among the early ones are the Calabrese (by far the most widespread), the Broccolo of Verona and the Primaticcio of Albano. On the other hand, the Pugliese, the Tardivo di Albano and the Nero di Napoli are noteworthy.

Broccoli - Brassica oleracea: Collection and conservation

It begins when the heads are well formed, but are still well compacted, generally before the flowers begin to open. In most cases the plant will not be removed because it will activate to produce other heads from the lateral jets.
You will only need to pick the head or even the leaves at the base, following the manufacturer's advice.
Depending on the variety, the geographical area and the resistance to cold, in the open field, the harvest takes place from September to March. Generally 10-20 kg of product are obtained every 10 square meters of cultivation.
Once the broccoli has been harvested, it should be consumed as quickly as possible in order to maintain all the organoleptic qualities. To preserve them the ideal is the compartment arranged in the refrigerator (closing them with plastic film).
If you want, however, they can also be frozen: you must first lightly cook them, 5 minutes in salted water, then cool them quickly with ice. They must then be placed in special bags.
The best way to cook them is certainly the microwave, covered with the appropriate film: it takes a few minutes and remains crispy, not losing the vitamins and mineral salts in the water.
They can also be pickled to be kept in a jar.
Watch the video

The broccoli calendar

Sowing in the Center-South

June to October
Sow in the North June July
collection September to March