My friend Carol has given me lots of great fruit and vegetable ideas over the years: grafting tips and ground cherry, bean and tomato varieties. Her latest suggestion was overwintering brassicas. I’d always counted on flower buds from kale and other overwintered brassicas to give me a sweet broccoli taste in early spring, but this past summer, Carol encouraged me to grow purple sprouting broccoli as well as overwintering cauliflowers. She even gave me some plants. “You’ll be glad you grew them,” she said. For the past month, as we’ve enjoyed sweet cauliflower and purple sprouting broccoli, we have been glad. Thanks to Carol, I’ve ordered my own seeds for overwintering brassicas and will plant them this summer for next spring.
Carol gave me starts for “All the Year Round” and Purple Cape cauliflower and for Purple Sprouting Broccoli. Uprising Organics offers “All the Year Round” cauliflower, shown here in my kitchen garden.
Adaptive Seeds offers Purple Cape cauliflower, a bit blown in this photo because I didn’t realize it was cauliflower so picked after it had burst from its head. It was still delicious. Adaptive also offers Prestige Cauliflower, another white overwintering cauliflower.
A variety of Purple Sprouting Broccoli called Red Arrow is usually available from Adaptive Seeds but is sold out this year. Territorial Seeds also offers several different varieties of Purple Sprouting Broccoli, all tempting. I’m not sure which variety from Carol’s starts is here in these photos.
This past winter was a good test for overwintering brassicas. We had many nights with temperatures in the teens, days with relentless northeast and northwest winds, and snow. The cauliflower and broccoli plants I’d set out in late July were robust, nearly three-foot tall towers of dark green leaves by late October. From November to February, with each hit of winter weather, the plants looked more and more cold and wind damaged, less and less likely to rebound. I was about to write them off as a failed experiment when in late February I noticed new growth emerging. First, small purple buds appeared near the ends of broccoli stems, then leaves on the cauliflowers multiplied, looking like they were starting to enclose growing heads. Once again, Carol was right. We were soon harvesting tasty purple broccoli florets and large, sweet heads of cauliflower.
Purple sprouting broccoli roasted and topped with some roasted kale leaves and flower buds
All the Year Round Cauliflower roasted with shallots, topped with toasted almonds and parsley
Roasted Purple Cape Cauliflower and Soissons Verte beans with sautéed red mustard
I have plants of summer broccoli and cauliflower already growing in this year’s kitchen garden and am looking forward to harvesting them on sunny, warm days of summer, but I’m also anticipating next winter and early spring and the chance to welcome overwintering brassicas again.