Calabrese Green Sprouting Broccoli

In an effort to be more faithful about sharing variety-specific growing information on my garden selections, I will occasionally feature these varieties in their own posts.  Look for these posts to be compiled on a new page soon! 
Early last year (February, to be exact), I was browsing the seed display at a local big box hardware store.  My seed orders had already been placed, but as always, I just had to take a look.  As fate would have it, right across from the big yellow Burpee display, there was another, smaller, less assuming display of bargain seed packets. Not only were they mostly heirloom varieties, but they were ridiculously affordable at just eleven cents per packet.  I picked up a number of packets, including a little packet of Calabrese Green Sprouting broccoli.

Little did I know that it would be the best eleven cents I ever spent!
The plants grow to be about three feet high and three feet wide.  They take up a lot of room, but it's definitely worth it.  The main heads are big and densely packed.  I let them grow as long as possible on the plant, picking them as soon as I see the first hint of a yellow flower starting to poke through on the very outer florets.   The main heads average between a pound or two a piece, which usually works out to around two or three cups of small bite-sized broccoli florets after it has been trimmed.
After the main head has been harvested, the plants immediately start to produce new "spouts."  The sprouts form all around where the main head was harvested (see photo below).  The size of the spouts do vary, depending on the growing conditions.  When it's extremely hot, they tend to be on the smaller side, but when the weather is more favorable, they can quickly grow into very nice sized little heads of broccoli.  As long as you continue to harvest them, these spouts make for a steady harvest of broccoli straight through fall (and the plants will survive a surprising amount of frost before they give up).
In fact, just last night I harvested one of the main broccoli heads from the second seeding of broccoli as well as a head's worth of new spouts from a couple of plants from the first round of broccoli: 
There was only two tenths of a pound difference between the main head (on the left) and the collection of sprouts (on the right).  
But it is definitely the flavor of this broccoli that has earned it a permanent spot in my garden.  Even my  sometimes veggie adverse husband raves about how good this broccoli is.  It is incredibly tender and mildly sweet, right down through the stalk.  In our house, most of it is consumed right away in raw form through snacking or a variety of broccoli salads, but I did steam a few stems of the spouts last fall and it was equally good in that preparation.  We've yet to have any broccoli that hasn't been consumed within a day or two of harvest, so I can't speak to how well it freezes, but that in itself might be good enough of an endorsement to give Calabrese Green Sprouting broccoli a try!

Best of all?  I'm still on the same eleven cent package of seed!

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