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Is a Cucumber a Fruit or a Vegetable?

We all love cucumbers; no questions asked! A survey by Statista revealed in the US, a person consumed 8 pounds of cucumbers in 2021, demonstrating the fruit’s popularity. But is a cucumber a fruit or a vegetable?

However, it turns out that this seemingly simple question is surprisingly complex. Depending on how you look at it and what definition of “fruit” or “vegetable” you use, there can be more than one correct answer. Super confusing, right?

This blog will explore the debate over whether cucumbers are fruits or vegetables. We will look at botanical definitions, culinary uses, and more to get to the bottom of this age-old question. So if you’re ready to find out once and for all if cucumbers are fruits or vegetables, keep reading!

Per capita consumption of fresh cucumbers in the United States

Image Courtesy: statista.com

What is a Cucumber?

Generally speaking, cucumbers are a vegetable that belongs to the gourd family. They are long and have green skin, often used in salads or as a garnish. Cucumbers are 95% water, it is super helpful in naturally staying hydrated.

The History of Cucumbers

The cultivation of cucumbers is thought to have started in India about 3,000 years ago. The Mediterranean and other regions of Asia were then made known to them.

The Romans introduced cucumber plants to Europe. In England, the cucumber rose to popularity throughout the Victorian era.

Today, cucumbers are grown in many parts of the world, including North America, Africa, and South America.

is a cucumber a fruit or a vegetable

The Botanical Definition: A Cucumber is a Fruit

In terms of botany, a cucumber is regarded as a fruit (categorized as a pepo, a variety of botanical berries). This is because it grows from the plant’s flower and has seeds, regarded as a plant’s reproductive organs.

Botanically speaking, fruits are defined as structures that contain seeds derived from different parts of the flower and have a fleshy layer that develops from the ovary. This distinguishes them from vegetables, typically harvested for their edible parts, and contain no reproductive structures.

The cucumber plant is a flowering plant, which means it bears fruit. Its fruits are the cucumbers we eat, so they are technically fruits.

is a cucumber a fruit or a vegetable

The Culinary Perspective: A Cucumber is a Vegetable

Culinary definitions of fruits and vegetables can vary depending on who you ask. For most people, cucumbers fall into the vegetable category. This is because they are usually served savory dishes instead of sweet ones and are not eaten for sweetness.

In the culinary world, vegetables are typically defined as edible parts of plants that are not fruits or seeds. Examples include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.

is a cucumber a fruit or a vegetable

The Debate

The confusion over the classification of cucumbers is primarily because the term “fruit” has different meanings in different contexts. In botanical terms, cucumbers are a fruit; in culinary terms, they are a vegetable. Ultimately, the classification of cucumbers depends on the context in which they are being discussed.

The debate over whether cucumbers are a fruit or a vegetable will likely continue. But regardless of how you classify it, there’s no denying that cucumbers are a delicious and nutritious part of any diet!

is a cucumber a fruit or a vegetable

Uses of Cucumbers

I don’t have to tell you about the uses of cucumbers!

Cucumbers are versatile ingredients that can be used in a variety of ways. They are commonly eaten raw in salads, sandwiches, and garnish. Pickling cucumbers is a popular way of preserving them for later use. Pickled cucumbers, also known as “gherkins,” are a popular ingredient in sandwiches and salads.

Cucumbers are also used in cosmetics and skincare products. Cucumber extract is a common ingredient in moisturizers, face masks, and eye creams due to its hydrating properties. Slicing cucumbers and using them on your eyes also reduce puffiness and dark circles around the eyes.

Cucumbers are utilized in medicine. Natural diuretics like cucumber juice might aid in the body’s detoxification process. It is also thought to be anti-inflammatory and helps lessen pain and swelling. Also, some people utilize cucumber juice as an all-natural sunburn treatment. It’s also thought that cucumbers help improve bone health.

Cucumbers are also a popular ingredient in detox diets. They contain a lot of water and have few calories, which can aid in removing toxins from the body. For a set amount of time, some detox regimens recommend only eating cucumbers to help the body get clean.

is a cucumber a fruit or a vegetable

Cucumber Recipes

There is no disputing that cucumbers are a wonderfully healthy food to include in your diet, regardless of whether you consider them a fruit or a vegetable. Compared to most vegetables, cucumber frequently offers a meatier and crunchier texture. Even yet, since the fresh flavor is softer, it can be well-balanced when cooked in savory meals like stews, soups, or stir-fries.

1. Cucumber Salsa: This fresh and flavorful salsa is perfect for summer picnics and BBQs. Simply slice and prepare cucumbers with tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, lime juice, and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Cucumber Mint Salad: This refreshing salad is perfect for a light lunch or a side dish. Combine chopped cucumber, mint leaves, feta cheese, and olives. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Cucumber Gazpacho: This cool and creamy soup is perfect for hot summer days. Puree cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, olive oil, vinegar, and water in a blender or food processor until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chilled, topped with diced avocado and sour cream if desired.

4. Cucumber Sandwiches: These easy sandwiches are perfect for tea parties or light lunches. Spread bread with butter or cream cheese, then top with thinly sliced cucumbers (seeds removed if desired) and fresh dill weed. Sprinkle with salt if desired, then cut into small triangles or rectangles.

Conclusion

We hope this article has clarified that the cucumber is technically a fruit. While we may think of it as more of a vegetable because of its taste and texture, the truth is that it fits the definition of being classified as a fruit. The next time you’re in the produce aisle, remember this distinction as you select your cucumbers!

Does Neem Oil Kill Earwigs? A Comprehensive Look

arwigs are pesky insects that can wreak havoc in gardens and even make their way inside homes. Unfortunately, these critters can be a tough nuisance to deal with as they are quite resilient and reproduce quickly. But what if there was an effective solution to this problem? Could neem oil be the answer?

Neem oil originates from the Azadirachta indica tree, which is grown primarily in India but has been exported around the world. It’s derived from the seeds of the tree and contains multiple compounds that have been known to have insecticidal properties when used correctly.

For instance, it contains nimbin, nimbidin, azadirachtin, and salannin which act as a natural pesticides to protect plants and get rid of unwanted pests like earwigs. In this blog post, we’ll take a comprehensive look into whether neem oil is truly an effective deterrent for pesky earwigs.

Read More about Does Neem Oil Kill Earwigs? A Comprehensive Look

Growing Strawberries: When Should You Plant Them?

If you’ve ever wanted to grow strawberries in your garden, then you’re in the right place! In this blog, we’ll go over all the details of when and how to plant your strawberry plants to make sure they grow big delicious berries. We will discuss the few different ways you can grow your strawberries to get that sweet flavor. Also we list a few strawberry varieties that you might consider growing. Last, but certainly not least we will detail out some of the nutritional benefits of strawberries, so hang and read on. I promise it won’t take too long. You will be glad you did.

Why choose to grow Strawberries?

Strawberries are a delicious fruit that can be enjoyed fresh, in jams and jellies, or in pies and other desserts. But before we can get to that point we actually need to plant and take care them so that they will fruit to give you that classic strawberry flavor.

Yes, strawberries are relatively easy to grow, and they can be planted at different times throughout the year, depending on your climate. In warmer climates, you can plant strawberries in late winter or early spring. In cooler climates, it’s best to wait until late spring or early summer. Whether you start with bare root plants or young strawberry plants will also determine how difficult it will be to grow.

Read More about Growing Strawberries: When Should You Plant Them?

When do Daffodils bloom?

Daffodils, famously referred to as either narcissus or jonquils, embody a ray of hope and the promise of rejuvenation.

As the dreary winter vista is enlivened with their vibrant yellow flowers, they stand as a harbinger of the approaching spring season.

However, despite their widespread popularity, garden enthusiasts often ponder over the precise timing of the daffodil bloom and the optimal methods for their cultivation.

This article delves into the intricacies of daffodil blooming, the diversity of daffodil varieties, and offers practical advice for ensuring their flourishing growth.

plant daffodils

When do Daffodils Bloom?

The intricate timing of daffodil blooms, as it so happens, is contingent upon a multitude of factors, including the variety of daffodil and its geographical location.

With regards to a general timeline, the bloom of most daffodils can be expected to unfold between the latter half of February and the beginning of May. 

However, the variation in climates, such as in warmer climates, often results in an earlier period of blooms. Conversely, the cooler regions may see blooms that are delayed in time.

The UK, for instance, usually witnesses the bloom of daffodils from the end of March to the start of April. In contrast, New Zealand experiences the bloom of these beautiful flowers from September to November.

type of daffodil

A Bouquet of Beauty: The Various Forms of Daffodils

The world of daffodils is a kaleidoscope of diversity, each blossom unique in its own way, showcasing a blooming pattern and distinct features.

As the winter draws to a close, and the air is filled with the sweet fragrance of these marvels, it’s time to explore the many faces of this flower.

Starting the parade of bloomers, the Trumpet or Large-cupped daffodils take center stage, flowering as early as March, setting the tone for the daffodil season.

Following close behind are the Small-cupped and Double varieties, which usually make their appearance in late spring (April). The final act is performed by the Poeticus and Narcissus Tazetta, gracing gardens with their presence as late as May or June.

The Trumpet, the most beloved type of daffodil, boasts large, trumpet-shaped blooms, and is available in a spectrum of colors, including yellow, white, pink, and even orange! While the Large-cupped shares similarities with the Trumpet, it boasts larger, cup-shaped blooms, As its name suggests, the Small-cupped

As its name suggests, the Small-cupped has smaller cup-shaped blooms, but it more than makes up for it in variety, available in the same range of colors as the other varieties. The Double, on the other hand, is distinctive due to its double row of petals, again available in a rainbow of colors.

The Poeticus, a rare beauty, is known for its small blooms and sweet fragrance. It is typically white with a pale yellow cup. Meanwhile, the Narcissus Tazetta is a fragrant sensation, with its small, clustered blooms, available in a range of colors, including yellow, orange, pink, and white petals.

multiple blooms

Selecting the Appropriate Daffodil Bulb for Your Garden

For avid gardeners, choosing the ideal daffodil bulbs to cultivate is a task that requires contemplation and astuteness. There are several aspects to consider, from bloom time to the color of the flower.

In the realm of bloom time, daffodils come in an array of choices, with early, mid, and late-season varieties, allowing you to pick the one that will bloom during your preferred time.

Then, there’s the consideration of size and shape. Daffodils offer a vast range of possibilities, from petite, single or double-flowered stems, to grand, large-cupped specimens that can reach towering heights of up to 18 inches. Decide which will complement your garden the best.

Adding to the complexity of the decision-making process, daffodils boast a spectrum of hues, including yellow, white, orange, pink, and bicolored varieties.

It’s crucial to choose the colors that will harmonize with your garden’s overall aesthetic. Finally, the hardiness zone in your area must not be overlooked. Ensure that the bulbs you select are suitable for your region, as some daffodils may not be able to withstand the climate in your area.

In conclusion, selecting the perfect daffodil bulbs requires a well-thought-out approach, considering bloom time, size and shape, color, and regional compatibility.

With careful consideration and attention to detail, you’ll be sure to choose bulbs that will bring vibrant, long-lasting beauty to your garden.

bulbs in the fall

How to Plant Daffodils

For a flourishing garden, planting daffodils is a must-do! Before diving into the task, it’s crucial to select a spot that basks in the sunshine and boasts soil that’s not dense and easily retains water.

As the autumn chill settles in and the first frost approaches, it’s time to put your green thumb to work and get the bulbs planted. The key to successful planting is to ensure that the soil is well-drained.

If you notice that the soil in your garden is heavy or has a clay-like texture, consider mixing in some sand or compost for optimal growing conditions.

Follow these steps to plant your daffodil bulbs and bring a burst of spring color to your garden:

  1. Dig a hole that’s twice the depth of the bulb.
  2. Place the bulb with the pointy end up in the hole.
  3. Fill the hole with soil, tamping down gently to secure the bulb in place.
  4. Give the newly-planted bulb a generous watering to help it settle into its new home.

With a little bit of care and attention, your daffodils will bloom beautifully in no time!

Many daffodils

How Daffodils Bloom

Daffodils, a symbol of renewal and hope, embark on their journey to bloom as winter wanes and spring sets in.

The bulbs, nestled underground, stir to life as they reach out with roots and shoots, yearning for sustenance to fuel their growth.

As temperatures rise, the shoots break free from the earth and stretch towards the sky, eagerly basking in the warmth of the sun.

Their leaves, elongated and slender, shoot up first, offering sustenance to the rest of the plant and ensuring the blooming of its stunning beauty.

When the leaves have reached a critical mass, the stem begins to elongate and the flower buds come into being. And, as the buds mature, the blooming commences, revealing the radiant yellow petals of the daffodil, gracefully encircling the central cup-like structure, the corona.

This process of blooming lasts for several weeks, as the flowers bask in the sun, gradually fading, eventually falling off as the plant redirects its energy towards storing it for the upcoming growing season.

Daffodil bloom times

Caring for the Radiant Beauty of Daffodils and their Flowering Bulbs

Spring is an enchanting time of the year, with its colorful displays of flora and fauna. Among the earliest to grace our gardens with their vibrant presence are the cheerful daffodils.

But, to maintain their glory throughout the season, a little TLC is necessary. Here are some tips to keep your daffodils shining bright.But, to maintain their glory throughout the season, a little TLC is necessary. Here are some tips to keep your daffodils shining bright.

Hydration is key, especially during parched spells. Drench their roots once or twice a week with ample water, avoiding just dampening the leaves. Additionally, give them a gentle misting of water during their blooming phase to keep the petals looking fresh.

Come fall, provide a blanket of mulch to shield the plants from the harsh winter months.

Fertilization is crucial to foster healthy growth and an abundance of blooms. Choose a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, and apply as directed. For optimal results, fertilize your daffodils every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing phase.

Once the blooms have withered away, let the leaves die back naturally, as they are vital in producing food for the next year’s flowers. Cut the stem just an inch below the bloom and place it in a vase with fresh water, changing the water and recutting the stem as needed.

To maximize the longevity of your daffodils, keep them out of direct sunlight. And, don’t forget the art of deadheading, or removing the spent blooms, as it not only tidies up the plant but also spurs the emergence of new blooms. Simply snip off the flower stalk at the base, being mindful not to damage the leaves.

When the blooms have faded, remove the entire plant from its pot and store it in a cool, dry place until next spring.

Daffodils thrive in sunlight and can flourish in both full sun (at least 6 hours of daily sunlight) and partial shade. With proper care, your daffodils can last for several weeks, spreading happiness with their bright yellow blooms, a welcome sight after a long winter. So, treat them with care and relish their radiance for many seasons to come.

caring for daffodils

Daffodil FAQ

Do Daffodils Spread?

Daffodils spread through rhizomes, which are thickened underground stems that store energy.

Rhizomes enable the plant to rapidly multiply and produce large numbers of offsets, or small plants that develop from the parent plant. This is how daffodils readily naturalize in areas where they are planted.

Are Daffodils Poisonous to Cats?

The deceptively beautiful daffodil plant harbors a dark secret: it is highly toxic to our feline friends. From its petals to its bulbs, every aspect of this plant poses a threat to cats who may ingest it, leading to a range of unpleasant symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and even seizures in severe cases.

A swift call to either a trusted veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center can be the difference between life and death for a feline in peril. Don’t wait – act fast to protect your furry companion.

Are Daffodils Poisonous to Dogs?

Beware pet owners! Those cheerful, yellow daffodils you admire in your home may spell danger for your furry companions. Despite their innocent appearance, these blooms are potent carriers of the toxic substance lycorine, present in every part of the plant.

Lycorine poisoning in dogs can have a catastrophic impact, with symptoms ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to abdominal pain, drooling, and weakness. Even the smallest exposure to daffodils can be life-threatening, making swift veterinary intervention imperative.

What Month do Daffodils Flower?

Daffodils typically bloom in the late winter to early spring months. Depending on where you live, they may start to flower as early as February or as late as April.

Can you Leave Daffodil Bulbs in the Ground All Year?

Yes, you can leave daffodil bulbs in the ground all year. In fact, leaving them in the ground is the best option for daffodil bulbs as it allows them to receive the necessary nutrients and moisture for optimal growth.

However, it is important to keep in mind that daffodil bulbs are susceptible to disease and pests, so it is a good idea to clean up any dead foliage from the previous year to reduce the risk of infestation.

Additionally, it is recommended to divide and replant the bulbs every few years to keep them healthy and to ensure that they continue to bloom.

type of daffodil

Final Thoughts

As we come to a close, it’s time to contemplate the delightful charm that daffodils bring to our gardens and flower beds. These radiant blooms offer a captivating burst of color to the outdoor vista during the lively spring months, leaving a lasting impression on all who behold them.

The consistency and longevity of daffodil blooms make them a coveted commodity among discerning gardeners. With their ability to thrive in diverse soil conditions and weather patterns, it’s no wonder that daffodils are a popular choice for adding a touch of allure to one’s garden.

The optimal period for planting daffodil bulbs is during the crisp autumn months, providing the ideal conditions for their magnificent display come spring.

So, why not elevate the aesthetic of your garden and imbue it with a touch of sophistication by incorporating these magnificent spring bulbs into your landscape this year?

The outcome will undoubtedly be a breathtaking display of beauty and glory that will be treasured for seasons to come.

Guide To Growing The Perfect Broccoli

One of the most nutritional vegetables you could grow, this sun-loving, cool season vegetable is a vitamin powerhouse, filled with fiber, antioxidants and loads of vitamin C. Your mother was right- there is a good reason to eat your broccoli! You should certainly consider growing broccoli in your fall garden.

This stout, flowering, thick-stemmed vegetable is related to cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts and kale. All of which are in the Brassica Oleracea plant species. The central head is eaten before it flowers, when it resembles a small tree, but the rest of the vegetable is entirely edible too, a fact that most people don’t know. Broccoli is a moderately long-growing vegetable, but don’t let that deter you!  If you give this vegetable the right conditions and time your planting correctly, you can get this plant to produce new secondary heads for weeks even after you’ve harvested the main flowering head.

One of the great things about this vegetable is that you can grow it almost everywhere and we’re going to tell you how.

Let’s dive in and get growing!

Is Broccoli hard to grow?

1. Planting Broccoli

Broccoli loves sunlight and needs to be planted in a site that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. Broccoli is a cool-season plant, so the timing is key to getting your broccoli to produce properly. Broccoli is best in your cool season garden, so planning your seeds around the temperature is key. Depending on when you want to harvest your broccoli, and of course which growing zone you live in, you should plant your broccoli seeds in the fall or late winter. The soil temperature should be about 75 degrees when you plant your seeds. That might mean that you need to start the seeds indoors. The most common time to grow broccoli plants is sometime in the fall so you harvest broccoli in the winter. Once established, broccoli will grow in even near freezing temperatures.

Starting your own seeds can be rewarding, but time consuming or space dependent, so if you prefer to pick up seedlings at your local nursery to plant in your garden that would work just as well.

Starting Your Seeds

If you’re doing a spring planting, broccoli can be started indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date or you can sow broccoli seeds outdoors 2 to 3 weeks before your last frost date if your soil is workable enough. If starting indoors, sow seeds 1/4 to 1/2 deep in a high-quality seed-starting mix or peat pellets. You should see the germination of your broccoli seeds in about 4 to 7 days.

For a fall planting, you can direct sow outdoors around 85 to 100 days (which about how long broccoli takes to full mature) before the temperatures in your zone start to hit freezing. In zone 9b, central Florida that means I have all the way up until February. If you are in zone 6, where I am originally from, that means you want to be harvesting in December. With broccoli, it’s key to get it have it mature before the summer heat. Once it starts getting above 75 degrees on a regular basis, the buds begin to open and yellow petals appear. This will cause the broccoli to become bitter, so make sure you plant accordingly. If you are wanting to keep seeds, then this is the beginning of the process of getting seeds, but certainly not if you want to eat them.

It’s important to harden your plants off before transplanting in your garden, so make sure that you gradually expose your seedlings to the outdoors for a couple hours a day for at least a week during the day. Never leave your seedlings out at night since the potential for frost and frigid temperatures can damage your seedlings.

Space broccoli plants 12" - 24" apart

Where To Grow Broccoli

Broccoli can be grown in Zones 2 to 11. As mentioned above, broccoli grows well cool weather, so be mindful when you’re planting your seedlings to take into account. It is best that your broccoli mature during cooler temperatures. Refer to the growing instructions for your particular variety for your maturing dates.

When To Plant Broccoli

Broccoli does not generally do well in hot weather. While there some varieties with higher heat tolerance being developed on the market, it is still recommended to plant your crops in the early spring, for an early summer crop before the temperature warms up, or planting in the fall for a early winter harvest. Here are a few timing options:

  • Growing Zone 6 plant in early September
  • Growing Zone 7 plant in early October
  • Growing Zone 8 plant in October-November
  • Growing Zone 9 plant in early November

Prepping Your Planting Site

Amending your soil before you plant is always a great practice before you plant new plants, and you’ll want to give your vegetables all of the extra nutrients they can get. As the soil in your garden is exposed to heat and rain the organic matter breaks down. Obviously growing vegetables will also hasten this. If you grow in a garden bed, this becomes very apparent as the amount of soil seems to drop. This means each year you will need to add nutrient rich soil to your vegetable garden. You can also make your own compost, which sounds easier than it actually is, and add that as well. A bit of caution though, when you add new soil and compost, then mix it in, the soil composition will change. Which is a good reason to buy a 4 in one soil tester. Adding organic matter and other nutrients is needed, but can throw your soil out of balance. Test and amend your soil before planting. If you have added rich loamy soil or compost, it might mean waiting a few weeks fro some of the organic matter to break down.

Once the plants start growing, you can side dress them with organic fertilizer“>vegetable organic fertilizer to ensure they continue to get the nutrients they need. Just forking in a few inches around the base of the plant will do. Broccoli prefers a neutral to slightly acidic soil for best growing results. Using a soil ph tester, an investment I highly recommend, you want to get the soil ph to between 6-6.8.

Planting Broccoli Seedlings & Seeds

When your broccoli seedlings are ready to plant, usually determined when the seedlings have 4 or 5 true leaves and are around 4 to 6 weeks old. Transplant them into your garden at around 12 to 18 inches apart and in holes a bit deeper than the container depth they were in. Broccoli needs a good amount of space to flourish, so make sure you give your broccoli plenty of room to grow to develop. Space your rows around 24″ to 36″ inches apart. Water the plants right after you have planted them.

It’s a good practice to protect your young seedlings when you first plant them in the garden. Cloches or row covers are a good idea to protect from wind, hail rodents, or pests until your plants are more established.

You can also direct sow your broccoli. This is my preferred method and works just fine in my growing zone. Sowing indoors and transplanting will be the better route to take in northern zones 6 & 7 if you want to harvest your broccoli before late summer. When direct sowing, place a couple seeds in each hole 1/2″ deep and only 4 inches apart from one another. As they grow, I will thin them out to 12″ and transplant the best ones in the middle to plant them in other areas of my vegetable garden or place these in containers.

Growing Broccoli In Containers

Broccoli is a container-friendly vegetable to grow if you don’t have enough space in your garden or if you have poor soil conditions, you just need to make sure you have a decent sized container for it to grow. Broccoli can get pretty big. I like to use containers that are at least 12″ wide at the top and at least 12″ deep. That will usually mean you are looking at 7 – 10 gallon containers. If taken care of these will last you years, so even if you have to buy them new, they are a good investment. While black containers are probably the most common, if you can find a container with a lighter color I would buy that. Black containers will absorb heat, sometimes that can be an issue. Plant a couple seedlings per container but be prepared to cull one when the seedlings emerge.

One of the great things about container growing is the level of control you have both in the soil and sunshine it gets. I would mix in some well rotted manure in each container when you get started. When your broccoli is starting out place the container in a shady place, limiting the amount of sunshine to only a few hours of direct sun a day. As the broccoli plant grows gradually move into a spot with full sun.

Make sure to water frequently and fertilize with a slow release organic fertilizer at around half way through the growing process. Depending on the variety of broccoli that will be between 45-55 days. Then again as the center broccoli head forms.

Broccoli Microgreens

Due to its superfood qualities, broccoli is a very popular vegetable used to grow microgreens. This method of cultivation produces dense, highly concentrated baby greens that contain high levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. While popular with chefs and found at your local farmer’s markets, it’s quite easy to grow your own microgreens at home.

Grab a shallow seed tray and fill a bit over 3/4 full. Then drop your seedlings in, leaving a small amount of room for soil to be placed over the seeds. Sow seeds generously, they should seem crowded at only 1/4 inch apart and then cover very lightly with soil. Keep the soil warm-at room temperature or just above and once your seeds begin to sprout move them under your grow lights for about 10 hours of light a day. Pay close attention to soil moisture. I would suggest using a water bottle to lightly spray your microgreens daily as the light will dry them out.

Microgreens only take about 10 to 20 days to grow to the desired size, just after the true leaves start to develop. Harvest your shoots with a sharp knife or good quality scissors. They will last refrigerated for up to 10 days.

Brassica oleracea var

2. How To Grow And Care For Your Broccoli

Broccoli likes a rich, moist, fertile soil in order to grow well, a good amount of sunshine and most importantly- cool weather! The key to a good harvest is providing the right conditions to get it to proliferate and grow large for you to enjoy.

Watering

Make sure you water your broccoli regularly to keep the soil moist, but never soggy. So don’t overwater and leave your broccoli plants in a puddle, they can develope root rot especially when they are young plants. Overwatering your broccoli will also encourage pests and fungus.

If you live in a drier growing zone or if you know you won’t be able to water regularly, using an organic mulch can help with water retention. As a side benefit it will also help to control weed overgrowth. Another technique is to use a soaker hose. Run the hose along the plant’s base, this will encourage even water distribution and prevent soil erosion. When a head starts to develop, try your best to not water the head, as this can promote rot.

Fertilizing

When you plant your seedlings at the beginning of the growing season, it is recommended to fertilize your broccoli when the plants reach around 6 to 8 inches in height and again at around 12 inches. After that, you can give your plants a nutrient boost every 4 weeks or so. A low-nitrogen fertilizer, fish emulsion or any other type of well balanced slow release organic fertilizer is ideal. As stated prior I use a combination of well rotten manure to start and a couple applications of organic fertilizer both mid way and towards the end. Do whatever brings you the most success, but make the choice to stay away from chemical fertilizers for a variety or reasons. There are just so many options that are easy and inexpensive today that they are just not needed.

Cold Conditions

Did we mention that broccoli loves the cold! These plants thrive in temperatures as low as 40 degrees when mature. That would mean starting in early fall and harvesting at the beginning of winter. This is probably the most common time to grow broccoli, but this versatile plant can also be grown in early spring for an early summer crop. They are not very heat tolerant so be sure to plant erly enough in the spring so that by the time temperatures are above 75 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) you will be harvesting. If planting in the fall and you live in an area that gets below 30 degrees you may want to use row covers to protect your broccoli from colder evenings when the seasons begin to change.

If you want to promote an earlier harvest in the spring or a later harvest in the fall, you can utilize polytunnels or mini hoop tunnels to extend your growing season.

Mulch

Mulching around broccoli plants will help keep soil temperatures lower and provide weed protection. Broccoli roots are quite shallow, so adding mulch will provide some protection. It will also aid in maintaining a moist soil for you broccoli to grow in.

Excessive Heat

If you’re experiencing a heat wave and your broccoli plant can potentially bolt due to the temperatures, add some shade cloth to your plants to provide some protection against the heat and water often. Both will help prevent your broccoli from bolting.

Pruning Broccoli

Broccoli plants grow to produce a large, main head at the top of its main stalk and also produce smaller side shoots off of its main stalk. There are a few different ways you can prune broccoli and it will depend on what kind of harvest you want.

If you want numerous smaller, side shoots of the buds, then your best bet is to pinch off the main head about a month or so after you transplanted your seedling. This will promote the growth of several side shoots instead of one large, main flowering head.

Conversely, if you want a large main broccoli head, pinching off all of the side shoots will force all of the plants’ energy to go to producing the main head and not get diverted to producing small off-shoots.

Loose Broccoli Heads

Sometimes broccoli can produce loose, bitter heads that are less than savory to eat. Most commonly this is caused by too much heat. If you live in an area that experiences a spike in temperature, or if you planted your broccoli too late or in a spot that gets too warm, your broccoli could flower or bolt. Then you will have bitter, flavorless broccoli and your work will have been for nothing. If you prefer spring plantings this will always be an issue, timing will key in your success.

But what if it’s not the heat? Well, then it could be too much nitrogen in the soil as too much of this nutrient can cause swift growth of the head of the broccoli. Make sure you are mindful of the fertilizer you are using to avoid this problem in the first place. Which is another reason I always recommend using slow release fertilizers.  

3. Broccoli Heirloom Varieties

Broccoli is a member of the Brassicaceae family, commonly known as the group of cruciferous vegetables. These Brassica-type plants are a large group of vegetables whose members include cabbage, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, kohlrabi, kai-lan and Brussel sprouts. These vegetables are native to western and southern Europe, thriving in cooler and harsher growing conditions. 

PURPLE BROCCOLI

Many hybrid types have been developed over the years, but nothing beats the tried and true flavors of the classic heirloom varieties. The following are the common broccoli varieties.

Calabrese Broccoli: This is the most familiar type of broccoli, with large green or bluish-green heads and thick stalks. This variety is named after the Calabria region in Italy.

Sprouting Broccoli: As the name suggests, this type of broccoli is generally smaller with many heads, which can range in size and color. This type of broccoli reaches maturity in roughly 70 to 100 days.

Early Season Broccoli: These broccoli types can be good to harvest in less than 60 days and are ideal if you want a fast crop. They are typically more tender in taste and tend to develop smaller main heads.

Mid-Season Broccoli: Mid-season broccoli types take around 70-80 days to mature and do well in a bit warmer temperature. But not too warm! variety is typically on the larger size, around 4 to 8 inches, since it has a longer growing season than the Early Season Broccoli types.

Romanesco: This visually appealing, usually pale green in color broccoli produces unique spiral-like florets. Very sensitive to heat and has a bit of a nutty flavor. Somewhere between a broccoli and a cauliflower, this vegetable is a popular heirloom vegetable to grow.

Below are some heirloom varieties that would be a welcome addition to your garden:

Calabrese Green Sprouting Broccoli: This broccoli is an Italian heirloom variety and produces many side shoots, so perfect if you want a continuing harvest throughout the season. Matures in around 90 days.

Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli: This is a fast producing, purple bud variety that matures in as little as 60 days. This type is suitable for warmer temperatures.

Waltham 29: A dark, bluish-green coloured broccoli that is also popular for growing microgreens. This type matures in around 50 to 70 days.

Di Ciccio: Another Italian heirloom variety, this is a strong tasting emerald-green broccoli that is great at producing side shoots and matures in about 70 days to a size of 3 to 5 inches wide.

Yod Fah Chinese Broccoli: This sprouting-style broccoli matures in about 55 days and is tender and sweet. The stalks and leaves are sweet and delicious, so no part of this vegetable goes to waste.

Romanesco Italia Cauliflower: This apple-green broccoli matures in about 75 to 95 days

4. Common Insects & Ailments

As with most plants, there are many broccoli pests and insects you must contend with to keep your vegetables healthy and infection-free.  With a little planning and proper maintenance, you can minimize the damage and in the best case, avoid any issues entirely. One thing of note that many gardeners don’t often consider, start your garden away from other heavy vegetation. You will invite pests into your garden with these near. If it is a difficult thing to do, then slowly try and substitute in and around the vegetation known plants that deter insects, and/or flowers & plants that invite insects that eat harmful pests.

Cabbage Worms

The larvae of moths and butterflies, these pests feed on the foliage of plants and if not treated properly can eat up your plants! If you notice gray or white moths flying around your broccoli take heed and stop them from laying their eggs in the first place. Handpicking the eggs or spraying with insecticides containing Bacillus thuringiensis or spinosad every 1 to 2 weeks can help control the outbreak. Insect barrier or row covers can help to deter them and should be placed almost immediately after planting.

Aphids 

Aphids are tiny insects that will feed on the undersides of broccoli leaves, causing them to become discolored and wrinkled.

Neem oil or other horticultural oils (make sure you read the packaging before applying the oil to your tulips) is an effective method at getting rid of aphids. You could also apply a mixture of water and a couple drops of dish soap to a cloth or spray bottle and gently wipe or spray the infected area (apply every 2-3 days for a couple of weeks for best results). Sometimes simply spraying the aphids with cold water will dislodge them and prevent them from returning. Diatomaceous earth, an organic powdery compound, can be used successfully against an aphid infestation by simply sprinkling it over the plants.

Beneficial insects will compete with aphids and keep their population at bay, so it might not be a bad idea to plant a beneficial pollinator flower mixture in the area to help deter these pests if they are a recurring issue.

Flea Beetles 

Flea beetles are tiny insects that leave holes in the foliage of broccoli plants and if you’re not proactive, these pests can kill your seedlings and damage the harvest from your crop. It is a good idea to use an insecticide and follow the directions on the label. You do not want these insects! Flea beetles are pesky and can overwinter in the soil, so cleaning up your beds at the end of every season is good practice at preventing these insects from coming back year after year.

Cutworms 

Cutworms will eat your newly planted seedlings. It’s a good idea to plant strong seedlings instead of sowing seeds directly and if the problems persist, protect the stem of your broccoli by wrapping it (very delicately!) with cardboard or cloth, so they can’t get to the stem and cut it down. If problems persist, you may have to treat with an insecticidal spray. 

Cabbage Root Maggots

A notorious pest that infests plants within the cabbage family, including broccoli, pose a significant threat to your vegetables. These tiny yet destructive insects belong to the fly family and primarily target the roots of brassica crops. The life cycle of Cabbage Root Maggots begins as adults lay their eggs in the soil near susceptible plants during early spring. Prevention is the best cure. Between plantings you want to plow your garden, this will kill or minimize them staying over winter. However if you do have them digging up your plants and removing the root maggots from the roots is one of the best options. You can do that by dumping the roots in a bucket of water to drown them. Pyrethrin spray is another option but you still need to get at the roots.

Common Broccoli Diseases

Common issues when growing broccoli include bacterial and fungal diseases. A number of leaf spot diseases infect broccoli plants, and it is a good practice to rotate your brassica crops every year. To avoid fungal growth, always monitor your watering schedule and make sure you are not overwatering your plants, as fungus thrives in damp, wet conditions. Proper spacing when planting will help promote good air flow and circulation, and always water the base of the plant, avoiding the leaves or head of the broccoli to keep them as dry. 

If you go to check on your broccoli and notice a white, powdery-like, dusty-looking substance on your broccoli leaves you most likely have a case of powdery mildew. This type of fungus will attack the leaves first and gradually make its way to the stems and then the head. To avoid this, you must make sure your plants are getting enough sunlight, good air circulation (prune some leaves if necessary) and keep the plants as dry as possible (with adequate, but not too much water)

If you have an outbreak that you just can’t control, dispose of infected plants immediately to avoid further spread to other crops in your garden. Practicing good garden maintenance at the end of every season- cleaning debris is most important- this will also prevent the chance of insect or bacterial/fungal outbreaks in the following year.

5. Harvesting Broccoli

fall plantings of broccoli

Typically harvested in the early winter, the immature flower buds of the broccoli are what you want to harvest once its fully developed, before the flowering buds open up that turn into tiny, yellow flowers. If you notice them flowering, harvest immediately to avoid the bitter taste that normally accompanies a vegetable that bolts (sometimes, even if you catch it quick, you might miss the small window of when it turns bitter). You should harvest the head of your broccoli when it reaches its mature size, generally in the 4 to 6 inches range. The size can vary, so make sure you refer to your seed package for specific information about your variety.

Use a sharp knife when you harvest broccoli off of the main stem and if you aren’t planting anything in that garden spot right away, leave the plant there to form more side shoots. The side shoots will be smaller, but these are still quite delicious and can prolong your broccoli harvest. Adding a dose of a good quality, balanced fertilizer will encourage the side shoots to continue developing.

I mentioned in the very beginning the dark green leaves of the broccoli plant are also editable. This is not an oddity, the Italians, and other mediterranean countries have been eating broccoli leaves for centuries. There is even a specific variety of broccoli that is grown specifically for its leaves. Broccoli being of the brassica oleracea species, share the same traits. So broccoli leaves would be eaten just as their cousins; mustard greens, collard greens, kale, and others in the same family.

Storage

Fresh broccoli can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks, but the longer it’s in the refrigerator, the tougher the stems become, and you begin to loose nutrients. As with most fruits and vegetables-fresh is best! Give it a good wash before you go to eat it.

But what do you do after you’ve reaped your massive broccoli harvest and can’t eat it all within two weeks? What will you do with all of your crop? Luckily, there are ways to save and store broccoli over the winter.

Freezing 

Freezing is a great and easy method to preserve your broccoli harvest for the winter months. Freezing allows for the best preservation of the flavor, color and nutrients in your harvest and if you have ample space (freezer space) to store frozen vegetables, this method is for you. And it’s pretty easy! 

First, give your broccoli a good wash with warm water. You can even fill up your sink with warm water and add a little bit of white vinegar to it, soaking the broccoli until any or all of the insects come out of the florets. There are a lot of places for insects to hide in broccoli heads, so make sure you wash them thoroughly. Soak for 15 minutes before drying the florets on a dish towel.

Chop up your broccoli into bite sized florets and cut the stem down to your liking. Next, blanch these in boiling water for around 3 minutes and then place them in an ice bath for the same amount of time to stop the cooking process. Blanching is a great method that allows your broccoli to maintain its color, texture, and nutritional value. Once it’s done in the ice bath, dry the florets out and lay them flat on a baking sheet. Place this sheet in the freezer and this helps the florets from sticking together and freezing evenly. It’s easier when it’s frozen this way, otherwise if you freeze them in a clump, they can be a pain to separate if you just want a handful for a recipe for later.

Once they are sufficiently frozen, add them to freezer bags and write the date on them. Frozen broccoli can last up to 6 months in the freezer. 

Seed Saving

If you allow a broccoli plant or two to bolt, rather than harvesting the head of the broccoli, then you can save your seeds for next year. Once the small yellow flowers open up, they can be pollinated, which can result in the production of many, many seeds that you can store.

Broccoli seeds are very small, so when you go to collect them, it would be a good idea to collect them in a tray. Break the pods off of the stalks and then give them a shake over the tray, then break the pods open with your fingers to get to the seeds inside.

Once you’ve collected your seeds, dry your seeds out for a week or two before placing them in a cool, dark place for the winter. Seeds typically can last up to a couple of years if they are heirloom seeds.If you want to see if your seeds germinate, it may be a good idea to try to sprout them in a damp paper towel before you decide to plant them in your garden, just in case they don’t germinate, and you need to find other, viable seeds.

If you collect and save your seeds every year, you can guarantee that your seeds weren’t treated with pesticides and chemicals, which is a good thing if you’re aiming for a more organic approach to vegetable gardening. You can even go to a local seed swap and trade your seeds for some other heirloom and organic seeds from your neighbors. Another option is to join the Seed Savers Exchange where you can list your seeds for others to enjoy & request seeds from other gardeners.

growing broccoli

6. Companion Planting

Companion planting is a great practice to add to your gardening. A combination of folklore and science, there are particular fruits, herbs and vegetables that will work to help deter pests from your broccoli and allow your harvest to thrive. On the flipside, there are certain types of plants that you should avoid planting near your broccoli. You can learn quite a bit of what works and what doesn’t through experimentation, but the ones discussed here are tried and tested companions that will be beneficial (or not) when you plant your garden.

Good Companions

Beets

Beets are a good companion plant to broccoli because while broccoli is a heavy-feeder in terms of calcium and beets don’t need much calcium at all, so there won’t be any nutrient competition. Just make sure you give each plant the proper amount of growing room!

Chamomile 

Chamomile is great at attracting pollinators to your garden and will do great beside your broccoli. 

Lettuce

While not necessarily beneficial to your broccoli, lettuce can be planted beside your broccoli in the summer months, when the summer heat tends to bolt or scorch your lettuce leaves. The shade that bigger broccoli leaves can provide, will be a nice, shady cover for some summer lettuce crops that would otherwise not flourish.

Potatoes

Potatoes and broccoli are both heavy-feeders, so it can be tricky when you pick a plant to go alongside both of these vegetables, but the good thing is that these both don’t want what the other needs! Broccoli loves calcium and nitrogen, while potatoes need more magnesium and phosphate, so these two can be planted together- just so long as you have the space.  

Rhubarb

Planting your broccoli near rhubarb will help deter the cabbage whitefly that can plague your broccoli leaves, but if you don’t eat the leaves (but you can and should!) then this won’t be too big of an issue. Rhubarb leaves can get huge- so be mindful when you plant your broccoli to avoid overcrowding.

Rosemary

Rosemary repels many pests- so planting this herb near your broccoli is highly recommended! Cabbage moths and cabbage loopers don’t like rosemary, and as an added bonus, if you sprinkle some of the herbs’ leaves on the ground around your broccoli plants, its spiky leaves will deter slugs and snails. Win, win!

Companions To Avoid

It’s best to not plant other brassica family members alongside your broccoli, as this will lead to similar nutrient competition and attract the same pests. Rule of thumb is to plant them as far as you can from each other in your garden.

Some say to avoid planting strawberries, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and squash alongside broccoli, since these plants are heavy feeders, and they’ll fight each other for nutrients.

7. Cooking & Eating Broccoli

Broccoli is a diverse vegetable. Eaten raw, steamed, blanched, even deep-fried or in a smoothie! You are only limited by your creativity and imagination when it comes to preparing broccoli.  A quick blanch, a slow roast tossed with your favorite seasonings in the oven, or even barbecued on the grill, broccoli is an easy to cook vegetable that is chalked full of nutritional value. 

While the florets are most commonly eaten, you can most definitely eat the stalks and leaves of the broccoli too.

The stalk can be just as tender as the florets and can be chopped up and diced can be used just like you would use broccoli, in soups, or stews and stir-fries. Many suggest peeling the outer rind off of the stalk first, since it can be a bit woodsy tasting, but that will depend on your personal preference. Broccoli stalks are great chopped up fine in salads and coleslaws- the added crunch gives you a nice texture contrast with other vegetables. You can even peel the stalk with a vegetable peeler or a spiralizer, to use it in raw dishes or as a noodle alternative. Broccoli rice has become popular, where the stalk is pulsed in a food processor to resemble a rice-like consistency and eaten either raw or sautéed.

The leaves can be chopped and added to a salad. They are a little bitter, but less so than collard or mustard greens. They can be sauteed much like you would with kale or collards.

Broccoli microgreens can be added to any salad, sandwich or wrap to add a densely nutritional kick to your meal. You could even juice these microgreens and add it to your favourite homemade juice for an added nutritional boost.

Is flowering broccoli safe to eat?

One common question is, can you eat the bright yellow flowers on the heads of broccoli? The simple answer is of course you can eat broccoli flowers. When a plant flowers, it means that it has gone through the process of self-pollination. This happens when the plant’s male and female reproductive organs mature at the same time and the plant transfers pollen from the male organ to the female organ. Self-pollination can occur in both hybrid and non-hybrid plants.

In general, self-pollinated plants are more likely to produce offspring that are genetically similar to the parent plant. This is because there is less genetic diversity in self-pollinated plants than in hybrid plants. Hybrid plants have genes from two different parent plants, which results in more genetic diversity.

So, what does this mean for you? If you’re eating flowering broccoli from your garden, it’s likely that the plant is a self-pollinated plant. This means that the broccoli you’re eating is genetically similar to the parent plant. However, it’s important to remember that every plant is different, so there is no guarantee that all self-pollinated plants will be safe to eat.

A Final Note

Broccoli is a nutritious, popular vegetable to add to your garden. If you have the space, the proper soil conditions, and plant along with the cooler temperatures, this vegetable will thrive in your garden. Starting your own seeds or growing seedlings can be rewarding in its own right and amending your garden beds to meet the needs of your plants will get them off to a great start. Be mindful of watering (and most importantly, over-watering) to avoid common pests or ailments in the future.

Choosing an heirloom type of broccoli will add a uniqueness to your garden and give you a better chance of having viable seeds for the next seasons if you choose to save your broccoli seeds. 

Cooking and storing broccoli are diverse and easy, making this vegetable a must-have in your kitchen.

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