Let's talk, for a second, about the Broccoli Problem.
Why doesn't anyone grow broccoli? Why is it hardly ever for sale at Cape Cod farmers markets? Why do my parents four hours north get it all the time in their CSA? Are any of you growing it? Is it terribly difficult? Is there a black market I'm missing?

Broccoli  is one of the foods I miss most since I started trying to eat locally. This seems silly! We live in Climate Zone 7. Broccoli is a cold-loving crop, in the same family as cabbage and kale and turnips. I see plenty of those around, but I can count on three fingers the farmers I've run into selling broccoli. (Peter Fossel, Jeff Eldredge, and Andy Pollock, I'm looking at you.) Is it just not profitable? Is it too hard to grow? There must be a reason. If you know it, please. Enlighten me.

In the meantime, the Fedco catalog came in the mail the other day, and unless I hear a good reason not to, I will be ordering 1 gram of "Green King." According to the description, that should take care of my broccoli craving by September 2013. 

Until then, I am cheating. We had a Wellfleet Farmers' Market potluck over here the other night, and Victoria brought a broccoli cheddar soup. We all made soups, in fact—so much that we were able to do a mini soup swap at the end—and I ended up with two pints of the cheddar broccoli. It was so green! So creamy! I couldn't get over the way the little florets—it was mostly pureed—sort of melted in with the cheese. I devoured it, and so did Sally, and the next day we loaded into the car and drove straight to Bradford Natural and caved. I bought two heads of the best broccoli I could find—organic, and grown in the United States—and dug out that recipe my mom's been telling me about from Heidi. I chopped potatoes. I minced garlic. I diced onions and thawed some homemade chicken stock and cut up a head of broccoli. I rummaged around in the fridge until I found a jar of good whole grain mustard, and then I grated a whole heap of sharp cheddar. I made the soup, and it was glorious. 

So friends! Cape Codders! We need broccoli.


As I mentioned up above, the original of this recipe comes from Heidi. I simplified a bit and added chicken stock, but for the most part, it's the same recipe. It's the perfect dinner for a busy week night—I made it in the morning, and Sally and I ate it for lunch and again for dinner with Alex. There were no leftovers.

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil or lard
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
fine grain sea salt
1 and 1/2 cups 1/4-inch potato cubes (I did not peel mine)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 and 1/2 cups good homemade chicken stock
1 large head broccoli, cut into small florets
1/3 cup grated cheddar, plus more for topping
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a big pinch of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender and translucent. (About 8 minutes.) Stir in the potatoes, cover, and cook for another five minutes, until they start to get soft. Add the garlic, then the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender—about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the broccoli and simmer another five minutes, or until tender. 

At this point, the soup is still pretty chunky. Get out an immersion blender or transfer the whole soup to a blender or food processor and blend until there are still a few little chunks but the big florets and potato chunks are pureed. Add the cheese and mustard and stir well. Taste for salt and add some as needed, then serve hot with toast or croutons, grated cheddar, and a drizzle of olive oil.


Darlene said...

I've tried growing broccoli but caterpillars devoured them. Not sure what to use to get rid of them..

Elspeth said...

maybe that's the issue. i've had that problem with brussels sprouts and kale, but i've found a layer of remy works wonders.

Anonymous said...

This summer we grew broccoli, kale and cabbage in Harwich. Both the kale and the broccoli grew fine at first, but then when they were closer to mature they were mercilessly attacked by both worms and some kind of bugs. We even used natural repellants repeatedly, but nothing worked and we finally gave up and tore them out.

diary of a tomato said...

I join you in your request for more locally grown broccoli, and add cauliflower to that list! Unfortunately, we haven't had much luck growing broccoli, so haven't even dared try out cauliflower. Another alternative might be sprouting broccoli, which is a perennial vegetable and cold tolerant.

Elspeth said...

This via email from Gus Schumaker:


Good morning, the Cape in the 1950's was a major producer of broccoli in Sandwich on some 200 acres on the Richard's Farm. Development rights purchased by the state, so no development.

Hedge Fund investor in Boston bought the farm which lies fallow. Apparently he is trying to get some type of develpment, farm should be growing Broccoli!

Capt. Darren said...

We tried, it didn't go so great. While the worms were a serious nemesis the decision to not grow it was based on square footage. We're already breaking the rules per square foot and broccoli doesn't produce as much bounty per sq foot than other goodies. Seeing it is generally available at local markets as an organic option, we found our limited space could be better used by say, sweet red peppers....., then again our space is better classified as a garden and not a farm, despite our farm stand!

Zim Kasper said...

Oh, man, my broccoli is the gift that keeps giving!! I harvested two gallon ziplocks of broccoli last week, in Dennisport. It has been out of control all season, to the point in August I was exhausted by it's production (along with my green beans). We planted A LOT of plants, as a friend gave us a tray of mini starts in the spring. We had them in 3 different areas in the garden. Yeah, some caterpillars and aphids, but i kind of left one plant for the aphids and they seemed to stay put. There was a point in September when the florets were a bit buggy, so I gave them to the chickens. We grow Brussels and kale well, but cabbage has been eaten up, and radihes & turnips are devoured by bugs. I'm wondering if the height of my broccoli plants help -they are waist high at this point.

I'll try to find out the variety and post here, as I want to grow the same next year.


andrea said...

I grew wonderful broccoli one year (in a pot, not in the ground). Big, beautiful plants with perfect florets, but I missed cutting them before they flowered. I have never since managed anything beyond a tiny seedling. I'd love to be able to grow this myself and would look forward to hearing anything you learn on the subject. In the meantime, Oakdale Farms (at the Falmouth market) often had beautiful heads for sale and I picked them up just about every time they had them.

Rachelle said...

Here in central Wisconsin, we planted broccoli sort of late for spring last year due to winter and had cabbage moths and their larva devour them. We hand-picked the worms we could see. When harvesting used a saltwater bath only to see still more when we blanched our crop for freezing. The second crop planted from seedlngs in early July and those plants that we continually cut back and tossed the bug infested crop actually produced a decent crop and after a light frost had no worms. This year we had terrible heat and poor germination. The late crop just sat there and never grew. No pesticides or herbicides were being used.

Elspeth said...

this via email from Marie Norgeot, a vendor at the Wellfleet Farmers' Market who grows at Checkerberry Farm in Orleans:

Hello There

Just dropping a note to say that I'd recommend Arcadia Broccoli. I just took a look at your blog and agree with you on the broccoli crisis, although I've had pretty good experience growing it (most of it wound up in my freezer).
I usually get two or three varieties of everything just to see which is the best and Arcadia was definitely the winner this season. I think I probably planted it sometime in April, in flats in the greenhouse, and I looked in my notes and got the first picking on July 20.
My tip is to plant a lot because you'll get the biggest and most worm-free heads with the first crop.

I haven't even opened my seed catalog yet - I'm not ready to start thinking about next summer this soon!

Sara Knowles said...

I long have been at peace with broccoli. It does wonders to the human body, especially regulating our sugar. So yeah, I can't thank it enough.

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