Broccoli has taken a long road to get to our tables. It's descended from wild cabbages. For over 2000 years, Italian and Greek farmers have carefully selected varieties to produce the current version of the vegetable many love.
But not all broccoli is created equal and the evolution continues. There are some unusual heirlooms and hybrids on the market that can make broccoli growing downright fun!
Small-headed broccolis are hot. Varieties, such as Happy Trends and the heirloom De Cicco, feature bushy plants that produce multitudes of 3- to 4-inch diameter heads all summer. They're perfect for a small meal.
If you've ever wondered about eating broccoli leaves (they are edible), try the Spring Raab and Sessantina Grossa. These broccoli raab varieties are quick to mature in cool weather from direct sown seed. Unlike other broccolis, you eat the whole plant just as the small head is forming. Spigariello Liscia is a leaf broccoli that you eat once the leaves are large enough. It's sweeter tasting then broccoli raab.
For something really different, try the Sante sprouting broccoli. It produces small, purple colored heads and is best grown as a fall crop.
Start broccoli seeds indoors soon and then succession plant seeds in summer for a fall crop. Broccoli is a heavy feeding vegetable, so grow them in raised beds in compost-amended soil. Add an organic fertilizer at planting time and monthly. Keep flea beetles off young seedlings with sprays of diatomaceous earth or row covers and tulle fabric. These covers prevent cabbageworm butterflies and Swede midge flies from laying eggs that damage the heads and leaves.