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Brassica oleracea (Italica Group)

Previously known as:

  • Raphanus brassica-officinalis
Phonetic Spelling
BRAS-ih-ka ol-ur-RAY-see-uh
Description

The Italica Group of Brassica oleracea is broccoli.  It is a cool-season vegetable that is typically grown in the spring or fall and is harvested to eat the stems and unopened flower buds.  While less commonly eaten, the leaves and opened flowers are edible as well.  This cultivar group is in the same species as some other well-known cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels Sprouts, set apart by selective breeding for thick stems and large, compact flower heads.

Broccoli grows best in full sun and moist, rich, well-drained soil.  They prefer loamy soil at a pH of around 6-7.  Consistent, steady moisture is needed throughout the growing season as water stress leads to bitter flavors and stunted growth.  As they also need consistent nutrition, additional compost or fertilizer may be added around the plant once it is about 4 in tall.  Daytime temperatures above 80 degrees will affect the plant, causing poor growth.  Applying mulch around these plants will ensure that the shallow roots remain protected and moist as well as provide a form of weed control.

In NC, it is recommended to grow broccoli via transplants– especially if growing a spring crop– as our summers are long and hot.  Start transplants indoors 6-8 weeks before planting.  For spring, plant transplants between mid-February and April; for fall, plant between mid-July and mid-September.  Plants can be spaced anywhere from 6-18 in apart.

Harvest as soon after the heads become firm and tight; prior to the buds opening is best as the heads quickly lose quality once they bloom.  In NC, spring harvest will be around mid-May through June and fall around mid-October through November.  Once the center head is removed, the plant will continue to produce smaller offshoots that can also be harvested.  Although broccoli can be eaten raw, it is typically served boiled or steamed.  Outer leaves can be harvested sparingly before the flower buds form and more intensely by the end of the season; use similarly to collard greens.  If the plant does flower before harvest, flowers and young seed pods can be eaten raw in salads or as a garnish.

Insects, Pests and other Plant Problems:  Cabbageworms, cabbage loopers, aphids, caterpillars and slugs are insects that may cause problems for broccoli.  Leaf spot, blackleg, and black rot are health issues.

 

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Edibles, Bulbs, and Houseplants" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.   

More information on Brassica oleracea.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Packman Hybrid'
    Standard variety; large 8-in heads, heat tolerant
'Packman Hybrid'
Tags:
#annual#edible flowers#moist soil#vegetable garden#childrens garden#edible leaves#cool season vegetable#edble stems#problem for horses#well drained soil
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Packman Hybrid'
    Standard variety; large 8-in heads, heat tolerant
'Packman Hybrid'
Tags:
#annual#edible flowers#moist soil#vegetable garden#childrens garden#edible leaves#cool season vegetable#edble stems#problem for horses#well drained soil
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Brassica
    Species:
    oleracea
    Family:
    Brassicaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Mediterranean
    Play Value:
    Edible fruit
    Edibility:
    Stem, buds, leaves, flowers, and young seed pods. Use within a couple days of refridgeration, though heads and leaves can be frozen for long-term storage.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 6 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Habit/Form:
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Spring
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Siliqua
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Although rarely left to set seed, broccoli forms long pods with many round seeds. They can be eaten when young and immature.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Cross
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Large flowering heads on a tree-like structure are eaten as a vegetable. As the heads are almost always harvested before bloom, the yellow flowers are rarely seen.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Green
    White
    Leaf Feel:
    Waxy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Large, round, waxy blue-green leaves with white-ish veins and wavy margins.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    The short stems are edible, although they become tough the larger and older they are.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Patio
    Small Space
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Edible Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Mass Planting
    Small groups
    Problems:
    Problem for Horses