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Broccolini (Brassica oleracea var. Italica x alboglabra)

Broccolini - Vegetable 

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(Best months for growing Broccolini in New Zealand - temperate regions)

S = Plant undercover in seed trays T = Plant out (transplant) seedlings

  • Easy to grow. Grow in seed trays, and plant out in 4-6 weeks. Sow seed at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed. Best planted at soil temperatures between 7°C and 30°C. (Show °F/in)
  • Space plants: 35 - 50 cm apart
  • Harvest in 10-16 weeks. Cut flowerhead off with a knife..
  • Compatible with (can grow beside): Dwarf (bush) beans, beets, celery, cucumber, onions, marigold, nasturtium, rhubarb, aromatic herbs (sage, dill, chamomile, oregano)
  • Avoid growing close to: Climbing (pole) beans, tomato, peppers (chilli, capsicum), eggplant (aubergine), strawberry, mustard

Broccolini is an annual vegetable from the Brassicaceae family. It is actually a hybrid cross between European broccoliB. oleracea var. italica, and Chinese gai lan, B. oleracea var. alboglabra, otherwise known as Chinese broccoli or Chinese kale. Though it resembles broccoli in many ways, unlike its large-headed relative, broccolini produces many small flowering shoots on thin tender stems. The entire plant is edible, including the curly green leaves, small florets, and long stems. Milder and sweeter than broccoli with a subtly peppery flavour, it is wonderful steamed, stir-fried, or even eaten raw in salads.

Growing broccolini

It can be planted as soon as the ground has thawed in the spring. However, keep in mind that it only tolerates light frost and it may be safer to wait until all risk of frost has passed, particularly in colder regions. In the same way as you would with spring starts, you should transplant seedlings into the garden when they have developed 6-8 true leaves. Plant seedlings outside in garden soil amended with compost, planting about 1/2 inch deeper into the soil than they were in the pots. Space plants about a foot apart in rows 2 feet apart. If you do want to try direct-sowing, sow seeds in garden soil amended with compost in rows 12 to 14 inches apart. Place a broccolini seed in each 1/4-inch deep hole and cover lightly with soil. Once seedlings emerge, thin to 5 to 6 inches apart. In general, it is considered a cool weather crop that has similar growing requirements to broccoli, though it is not quite as cold hardy as its parent.

It grows best in full sun in nutrient rich, well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Prior to planting, it is useful to add a couple of inches of compost or aged manure to the soil. Broccolini needs lots of water, guzzling up at least 1 to 2 inches per week. Keep an eye on plants and water every few days, or when the top of the soil begins to look dried out. Water until the soil is moist but not waterlogged. Feed whenever you notice yellowing leaves, which are a sign of nitrogen deficiency. You can also choose to apply liquid feed regularly every few weeks, which will give plants an extra boost of nitrogen, helping your crop to grow larger and more resilient. When plants are about 8 to 10 inches tall, you can push soil around the stems up to the first large leaves. This will help encourage side shoots to form. This is important because the side shoots are the part that is harvested.

 There are a couple of steps to harvesting broccolini

You want to begin the harvest process after the main heads have formed, but before they have begun to separate into individual flowers – typically about 2 to 3 months after planting out.

They should be a vibrant green. Be sure to harvest before the leaves start to turn yellow, which will cause the heads to wilt and lose flavour. Start by cutting the main crown and about 6 inches of stem.

Removing the central stem will stimulate side shoots to grow, which is the goal. While the main stem is edible, the side shoots are the parts that will ultimately be the main harvest.

Once side shoots appear, you can cut each of the stems just above a set of green leaves. Cut towards the base of the stem, leaving one set of leaves intact to encourage new shoots. If the foliage is still green and vibrant after cutting the shoots, you should get multiple crops of florets. If you are lucky, you may get up to 3 to 5 rounds of harvests from each plant.

Health and nutritional benefits

Love your skin

Broccolini is rich in beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Many skin products contain vitamin A because of its ability to promote healthy skin. Broccolini also contains the anti-cancer phytochemical sulforaphane, which has antioxidant effects that protect skin cells.

Immunity

As well as vitamin A, broccolini contains vitamin C. These two vitamins have anti-ageing effects that ward off inflammation. Broccolini also has a decent potassium intake, which is important for heart health.

Gut health

Broccolini has a high fibre content, which acts as a prebiotic for the gut by feeding the good bacteria in the digestive system.

Liver cleanse

Broccolini (as well as the rest of the brassica vegetable family) is rich in the enzyme indole 3 carbinol, which aids liver detoxification and helps maintain hormone imbalance. 

If you are going to use Broccolini to treat an existing health condition please consult with your healthcare provider first.

Broccolini