Fresh broccoli can be grown in your backyard garden
RODOLFO ROMANAs organic and backyard gardens become more popular, several vegetables are booming in South Florida.
Published: December 19, 2012
Published: December 19, 2012
One vegetable that has been put on the map is broccoli. It is used in salads, sides or in soups. Who doesn't enjoy the taste of a broccoli and cheese soup? Now a trip to the grocery store to purchase broccoli can be omitted — if you grow it in a backyard.
There isn't mass production of the vegetable in Florida. California is the capital for broccoli, as it accounts for 90 percent of the United States' production, but that doesn't stop it from growing in the Sunshine State, said home gardening adviser John McLaughlin.
Broccoli is a minor crop for Florida, but there is increasing demand for broccoli production in East Coast states, he said.
He added that North Florida has seen a recent increase of the veggie being grown.
Broccoli is part of the cabbage family. The vegetable helps lower cholesterol and is effective to a body's detoxification system. It is rich in vitamin C, K and folate.
The vegetable's season starts in October and ends roughly in January.
But temperatures can cause a decrease in production.
"Production of tight, high-quality commercial heads declines as temperatures approach 80 degrees. Backyard growers can extend harvest by timely removal of side shoots every two to four days," he said.
It's fairly easy to grow broccoli in a backyard. A broccoli seed can be sown directly into the ground. However, if growers use a healthy 4-week-old transplant, it is a lot more reliable.
After planting, it is important to use fertilizer as a side dressing and soon after use in monthly intervals.
Soil used should be kept moist. Feel free to use mulch, as it helps to retain moisture and keep roots cool, he added.
"As plants reach about 1 inch in height, start to remove some of the bottom leaves and this will help initiate production of the terminal inflorescence," he wrote in an email. "Broccoli heads should be full and tight and removed before the green buds start to open, yellow flowers visible, otherwise they become stringy and develop an unpleasant pungent flavor."
Soon after, remove the head's dormant lateral shoots, which develop and produce inflorescences. This can be removed at two- to four-day intervals.
McLaughlin said as temperatures climb a strong flavor is more likely to develop.
"If grown from transplants, the head is ready for harvesting after about two months," he said.
Keep an eye out for pests that can damage the crop, such as caterpillars.
The vegetable can rapidly dry. But, it can be conserved by storing it under cool conditions with high humidity and it can't be kept for more than two weeks beyond harvest, he added.
"When purchased, the heads should be compact and uniformly green, not loose or yellowing, and the stems should appear moist and fresh, not brown. Once purchased, store in a plastic bag in the crisper, and away from bananas and apples or other food sources of ethylene," he wrote.
So next time you get the urge to eat cheese and broccoli soup, just go outside and pick the vegetable from the backyard.