Cherie Langlois
October 20, 2010

Photo by Cherie Langlois
My new Italian-variety broccoli didn’t produce any heads.

Whenever we return from a trip somewhere, my family and I come home with two kinds of souvenirs: the real, hold-in-your-hands kind that you pick up along the way (from polished stones gathered for free on a beach in Wales to that expensive Mickey sweatshirt bought from a Disneyland tourist shop) and the intangible kind. Souvenirs in the latter category have included different ways of interacting with people (say, taking time for polite greetings during hurried transactions, as is customary in France); new passions (such as for learning Spanish or for Greek cuisine); and ideas for new food plants to try growing on our hobby farm.

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Fragrant oregano infusing a hike on the Greek island of Crete; fresh cilantro sprinkled over Costa Rican gallo pinto; sweet Mirabelle plums swooned over while picnicking in a Paris park. These are a few of the edible “souvenirs” that now grow on our farm, bringing lovely memories back with each bite.

Broccoli leaves
Photo by Cherie Langlois
It turns out, the new broccoli I planted is usually grown for its leaves.

Keen to try Italian varieties after devouring so many wonderful veggies on our trip to Italy two summers ago, we ordered some Italian seeds from Gourmet Seed International this year. One of these was a type of lush and leafy broccoli called Spigariello. From the description, I thought it would produce tiny heads to harvest.  Well, the seeds I planted did indeed grow into tall, lushly leaved plants, but I waited and waited—and there was no sign of any broccoli heads, even tiny ones. 

Finally, after an online search, I discovered what the problem was: This weird broccoli variety is actually grown for its leaves, not the heads (and people who had grown it reported few, if any, of the latter). Kind of embarrassed, I grabbed scissors and snipped off a bunch of leaves. Eaten raw, they reminded me more of kale than broccoli, so I gave them my standard kale treatment: sautéing the chopped leaves with minced garlic in olive oil until slightly tender, then adding a few splashes of teriyaki sauce during the last few minutes of cooking. Delicious! 

P.S. I think our turkeys like this strange and prolific broccoli even more than we do. When our first frost arrived this weekend, I gathered the last succulent younger leaves and tossed the still-leafy stalks to our flock. The turkeys went into a piranha-like feeding frenzy, devouring every last leaf within minutes. Seriously, they scare me sometimes.


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