I think purple sprouting cauliflower would be a better name for these vegetables, they are not that similar to supermarket broccoli at all. In the twilight, the iridescent purple heads look like something from another planet, I think next year I’ll inter plant them amongst other things to add some colour to the garden and to help control pests. The central head is eaten first, and if you leave some of the florets sticking out the side, they will continue to grow and you should get a second harvest. They have a lovely sweet and delicate taste.
Making Life Hard
The real challenge was the white butterfly that lays its eggs on the leaves of brassicas produces hundreds of green caterpillars that devour the leaves and hide inside the bit you eat. Since we learned about the amount of insect life in a healthy garden, eating the odd bug seems almost enjoyable, but I prefer to keep it down to a minimum. There are a few ways we tried to beat these guys, first I spent ages picking the tiny yellow eggs off the leaves a couple of times a week, I slackened off for a week and came back to some pretty holy leaves. I caved in and hit them with derris dust, which is ground up roots, or rotenone, technically organic but still a bit nasty, this did the trick but I really don’t want to use pesticides if I can avoid it. Once the frosts hit, these pests disappear pretty quickly.
Chickens to the Rescue
I was reading a Jackie French book about companion planting, she mentioned that the white butterfly recognises brassicas by their silhouette and being territorial, will only land if there is no other white butterfly already on the plant. She mentioned placing eggshells under the plants as decoys. I was skeptical at first so I experimented - there is no doubt, the butterfly are scared of the egg shells. Some still land but a much more manageable amount. Inter planting can also help to disguise the brassica so I think I’ll try that next year.
How to grow them
- Sow seeds (we use Kings) inside in winter or outside in spring then transplant
- Plant them in good fertile ground with pea straw mulch
- Inter plant with other tall plants like celery
- Egg shells under leaves as decoy butterflies
- Inspect leaves and squish butterfly eggs and caterpillars as they appear
- If you really must, use derris dust or pyrethrin spray
- Harvest from autumn through winter
How to eat them
- Steam them briefly and keep some crunch, small leaves are good too
- Fettucine with Purple Sprouting Broccoli
- Simple Italian Style