Sprouting Broccoli — One Joy of Spring
Overwintered sprouting broccoli is an ephemeral and fleeting gift. Long, tender stalks are sweet from winter’s frosts and offer a much needed changeup from starchy storage crops that dominate our off-season diet on the farm. Most years the vulnerable broccoli plants survive through immured months of short days and freezing spells, but it is not unusual for the Pacific Northwest to deliver robust enough periods of cold to kill our sprouting broccoli before it ramps up to offer harvestable quantities in spring. That uncertainty makes it all the more special.
This winter was a cold one for sure, with at least a couple rounds of clear, cold periods that offered daily high temperatures reaching into the mid-twenties for weeks at a time. Half of our purple sprouting broccoli was protected in a low-tunnel and survived the cold; the remaining bed was devoured in the field by hungry deer.
What we ate was as delicious as we’d hoped for. Reminiscent of asparagus, the skinny stalks shine on the plate and in the tummy when sautéed lightly in olive oil. What we sold did not last long in the farmstand — it seems the purple broccoli has a cultish and attentive following of ravenous admirers who stripped our shelves bare as soon as we could fill them up with those precious few bags.
Unfortunately, the harvest period was short and already has come to an end. We planted a variety (Rudolph, from Osborne Seed) that puts up all of its bounty rather early rather than taking its time to provide side shoots for the taking deeper into spring. The good news is that purple sprouting broccoli is just the harbinger of things to come. We’re on to salad now, and nettles and spinach and braising mix and all the leafy greens that color our plates and fortify our souls through these enlivened and ever more productive days….