Botanically, broccoli closely resembles cauliflower, although the heads are usually smaller. In England, where many varieties are grown, there is great variation in the leaves and general habits of the plants. In this country the plants are more hardy to frost than cauliflower and the heads require more time to reach marketable size. The plants are also very sensitive to heat and demand a liberal and constant supply of moisture.
Broccoli is an important crop in England, being grown on an extensive field scale in some sections. In this country it has never been regarded as a satisfactory vegetable for commercial purposes, because of its inferior quality compared with cauliflower, and also because of the greater difficulty with which it is grown. Henderson claims that the crop fails two seasons out of three, but when successful it is highly profitable. Broccoli thrives best in northern sections.
It should be produced as a late crop, sowed in the open some time during May and transplanted in the field about six weeks later. The plants may be set 18 inches by 30 inches. The soil should be deep, rich and moist. The leaves are bent, pinned or tied to blanch the heads, as in the production of cauliflower. White Cape and White French are the leading varieties grown in the United States.
Brussels sprouts is one of the many variations of cabbage. Instead of a single head at the top of the stem, a large bud or miniature head is borne in the axil of each leaf, so that little heads are scattered all along the tall stem, which is crowned with a cluster of loose leaves. (Figure 65.) The solid little heads or "sprouts" as they are known, from 1 to 2 inches in diameter, are cooked and pickled in the same manner as cauliflower. They are regarded as fully as tender and delicious. This vegetable is most appreciated during fall and winter months.
Brussels sprouts find ready sale on the large city markets, and should be grown much more extensively. Many Americans are not familiar with the excellent quality of this vegetable. The demand for it in the large cities of this country is due mainly to the foreign population.
The culture is practically the same as for cabbage. Well-bred seed is exceedingly important. Sowings may be made under glass the first of February, transplanting the seedlings to the cold frame in March and to the open ground in April. The plants are slightly less hardy than cabbage. For the late crop, sowings should be made in the open during May, the transplanting occurring six or seven weeks later. Successional sowings may also be made. A deep, rich, moist soil is required for the best results. The plants should be spaced about 18 inches apart in the row, and there should be sufficient space between rows to cultivate with a horse. Nitrate of soda can be used to advantage in addition to stable manure or complete fertilizer.
Fig. 65. Brussels Sprouts.
The miniature heads form on the late plants toward the end of the summer, when the leaves along the stalks are cut off to favor the development of the "sprouts." These improve in quality by frost, and therefore "sprouts" are most in demand during the late fall, although marketed for probably two months before the occurrence of frost. The plants may be lifted and stored during the winter by the methods used for cabbage. The crop is usually marketed in berry baskets, and sometimes in two and four-quart baskets. The leading varieties sold by American seedsmen are Long Island Improved, Burpee Danish Prize and Dreer Select Matchless.