Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Purple Sprouting Broccoli takes a while to reach maturity, and takes up a fair amount of space on the veg plot, but the flavour is exceptional. A far cry from the ubiquitous bland green broccoli/calabrese that we find in our supermarkets.
If you're planning to grow any 'long season' crops, put this at the top of your list
Time from seed to plate: 40 weeks
It's best to start plants off in May or June. Gutters filled with compost are a very convenient way of sowing, but a seed bed also works well. Create a groove about 1/2 inch deep in gutter/seed bed and sow the seeds leaving 1-2 inches between each one. Cover with compost/soil, firm and water gently. When seedlings emerge thin them to leave 3 inches between each plant.
Sowing method: Gutters
Plant out about a month after sowing. Gently dig up seed bed sown plants or separate out gutter sown plants with a trowel and plant individually in your plot leaving 2ft between plants in both directions. Firm the soil around them well, because they tend to have shallow roots and can get blown over.
Use some organic slug killer to deter slugs/snails, and remove any caterpillars when you see them. Pigeons can be a problem in the spring so cover with netting if your plants come under attack.
Your plants will grow to about 3ft high, so if you're in an exposed spot support them with a cane and draw more soil up over the roots.
Purple sprouting broccoli falls into the 'cut and come again' camp. The first buds will be ready for picking in February. Snip off the main central spear/bud first, and the plants will start to produce side shoots that will turn into fresh spears. Most plants will continue producing new spears for up to 2 months. Regularly inspect your plants because if you don't pick the ripe spears they'll burst into flower.
When you cut off the spears, make sure you cut 2-3 inches of stem as well, this is as sweet and delicious as the bud on the end of it.