Do you love broccoli but want a change? Do you want to try something new this year? Broccolini is an amazing vegetable that tastes just as good as broccoli but has the added bonus of looking like a fern. It’s easy to grow too, which is perfect for people who don’t particularly enjoy gardening.
As with most plants, broccolini seeds are best grown in full sun; however, their compact size allows them to grow well even in partial shade. Proper watering and fertilizing are also essential for its growth. If you’re planning to grow broccolini for the first time, here’s a step-by-step guide that will help.
Quick Facts About Broccolini
- Scientific name: Brassica oleracea
- Type of plant: cross-breed of broccoli and Chinese broccoli
- Native to: Yokohama, Japan
- Light requirement: at least 6 hours of sun daily; hot weather
- Water requirement: at least 1 to 2 inches per week
- Preferred humidity: between 85 percent and 95 percent
- Size upon maturity: 15.2-20.3 cm in length and 2-4 cm in diameter
- Type of native soil: heavily organic-amended, rich soil ph
- Soil pH level: between 6.0 and 7.0
- Fertilizer: low-nitrogen fertilizer every three weeks
- Companion Planting: Chamomile, dill, mint, rosemary, sage, and alliums such leeks, onions, chives, and shallots
- Word meaning: Latin word “brachium”, which means arm, in reference to the curvy shape of its flower heads
- Family: Brassica
- Growing season: Spring, Fall
What exactly are broccolini plants?
Broccolini is a trademarked hybrid between broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis) and Chinese gai lan (Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra) but with a sweet flavor. It’s a quick-growing plant that you can harvest within just 10 weeks of planting (as long as you have long, warm summers). It’s also known as “baby broccoli” or “Chinese baby broccoli.” Broccolini has long, thin stalks and small, that look a lot like collard greens.
The flavor of broccolini is slightly more bitter than regular broccoli, but not as strong as kale. It has a similar texture to broccoli florets, but with longer stalks. The leaves are edible and have a mild flavor that makes them good for adding to salads or stir-fries.
The Broccolini plant features beautiful purple florets and green leaves. The flowers of this vegetable are edible, however, the stems and stalks need to be removed before preparation. Although available year-round, growing Broccolini is most productive in warm, tropical weather.
Cultivation and History
Broccolini is a member of the cabbage family and has been cultivated for over 2,000 years. It is grown in many countries including the United States, China, and New Zealand. The U.S. accounts for more than 90 percent of the world’s broccolini production as well as the majority of its exports.
The first broccolinis were developed in 1993 by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohama, Japan in Salinas, California who crossed broccoli with gai lan (Chinese broccoli). The result was a plant with green stalks, yellow flowers, and small buds similar to those on broccoli florets.
Its new hybrid was referred to as aspabroc, due to the thin edible stems’ likeness to asparagus. It was originally made available in US markets in 1996, and after the agreement between Sakata Seed Company and Mann Packing Company, it was renamed “broccolini” in 1998.
It has also become very popular in recent years due to its milder taste and lower cost than other brassicas. The plant grows quickly and produces large edible stems that are perfect for steaming or stir-frying with other vegetables.
There are several varieties of broccolini seeds available in the produce section of most grocery stores. If you’re looking to grow broccolini, try these varieties:
Sprouting broccoli is a popular variety of broccolini with long stems and small heads at the top. This type has 1-inch-long edible stems topped with small heads that resemble buds. The leaves are dark green with light green stripes or spots on them. Its side shoots flavor is similar to regular broccoli but sweeter and more delicate than traditional florets.
Calabrese broccoli has a broad, flat head with long, tender stalks. It has a sweet taste and slightly bitter aftertaste that makes it delicious eaten raw or cooked. The stalks are tender enough to eat raw in salads or slaws, but they can also be boiled whole or cut into florets and steamed or stir-fried. The leaves can be eaten as well; they taste similar to spinach leaves with a hint of broccoli flavor.
Also known as Chinese broccoli or kai lan, this variety has long stems, tiny florets, and thick leaves with a slightly bitter taste. Use it raw in salads or sauteed as an alternative to spinach or kale.
Also known as rapini or broccoli di rape, this variety has thin stems and side shoots that have a bitter taste similar to mustard greens when cooked. Use it raw in salads, sauteed as an alternative to spinach or kale or boiled briefly before adding to soups and sauces.
It has long, thin stems with small florets. The stems are usually pale yellow to white in color, while the florets can be green, purple or white.
The leaves of broccoflower plants have a purple hue that gradually becomes green as they mature. The stems are thin and usually pale green in color with purple stripes running through them. When cooked, the stems become tender enough to eat like florets; however, they should be cooked gently so they don’t become mushy.
Sweet Baby broccoli
This type has light green leaves and pale yellow flowers, with small side shoots that resemble large head of broccoli. This variety is sweeter than other types, but it still has a hint of bitterness.
This type has a milder taste than other varieties, making it ideal for raw salads and stir-fries. It also has stems that make it easy to use in salads or as an ingredient in stir-fries instead of using regular broccoli stems.
How to Grow Broccolini: A Complete Guide
Broccolini is a very versatile vegetable that can be used in many different ways. It is often grown as an ornamental plant, but it does produce tasty vegetables. Growing broccolini is very similar to growing broccoli and will produce for several years without much care.
Broccolini does well in a sunny location, but will tolerate partial shade. It is more tolerant of shade than kale. However, if you want to harvest at the baby stage, full sun is best so you can see the leaves and stems.
Broccolini grows best in well-draining soil, but retains moisture well enough so that it doesn’t dry out too quickly. You can add compost or other organic matter to improve the soil before planting your seedlings, especially if you have clay soil that drains poorly.
Preparing Soil for Planting
Amend the soil with compost or aged manure prior to planting. To help improve drainage and aeration of the soil, incorporate 2 inches of compost into the planting area before planting seedlings or seeds. Test the pH level of your soil before planting broccolini to ensure it is between 6.0 and 7.5. You can purchase inexpensive soil-testing kits and seedling tray at any garden center or online auction sites. Add lime if necessary to adjust the pH level, but do not overdo it because too much lime can damage the roots and leaves.
Keep your plants watered consistently throughout the growing season so they have plenty of water available when they need it most: during periods of rapid growth. Water deeply once or twice per week depending on how hot and dry it is outside. If you see signs of wilting while watering, give them another deep soaking right away so they don’t die from lack of water!
You can plant broccolini in spring or fall. Plant it outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Broccolini grows best when daytime soil temperature is between 50 F and 75 F; night-time temperatures should be about 10 F cooler than the daytime soil temperature. If you live in an area where the weather can be unpredictable, start your plants indoors about 8 weeks before transplanting them into the garden.
If you’re used to growing broccolini, you know that when it bolts, it really bolts. A broccolini plant will send up a tall central stalk with clusters of flower buds at the top. This is called bolting, and if you let it go until it flowers, it will be bitter and tough. You’ll want to prune your broccolini at least once before this happens so you won’t lose all your harvest.
How do you know when to prune?
Look at your plants every few weeks, starting as soon as they begin growing (some varieties start earlier than others). When you see small green buds at the end of each stem, cut off all of the old leaves on that stem except for one leaf right above where those buds are located. The remaining leaf will protect these buds until they grow into full-size leaves themselves.
Broccolini should be kept refrigerated, unwashed, and in its original packaging until you’re ready to use it. If it’s stored properly, it will last up to few weeks or so before wilting or going bad.
It’s best to store your broccolini in the crisper section of your refrigerator rather than on the shelves. This will keep it away from other vegetables that might cause it to wilt faster than usual. You should also cut off any ends that are bruised or browning before storing them in the fridge; this will help keep them fresher longer as well.
How to Plant Broccolini Seeds
While planting broccolini seeds indoors is not difficult, there are some basic steps you should follow to ensure that your crop grow well and are healthy.
- Step 1: Prepare the soil by turning it over with a shovel or tiller. Broccolini prefers loose, fertile soil that drains well but doesn’t dry out too quickly. Add compost or manure to your garden bed before planting so you can work it into the top 4 inches of soil with a tiller or rototiller.
- Step 2: Start seeds indoors in the early spring or early fall depending on when you want to harvest.
- Step 3: Plant broccolini seeds 12 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart and cover with 1/4 inch of soil. Keep the soil moist until germination (about 14 days). Broccolini grows best when it receives adequate sunlight but can tolerate partial shade if your climate offers some protection from the hot afternoon sun.
- Step 4: Thin seedlings to 6 inches apart once they emerge from the ground, or allow them to grow together into clumps at 12-inch intervals if you prefer harvesting whole plants later on in the season rather than individual stalks as they mature.
- Step 5: Water during dry spells to retain moisture and keep plant healthy and growing vigorously.
- Step 6: Fertilize once every 2 weeks after transplanting outdoors with a general-purpose fertilizer diluted according to package instructions and applied at the base of each plant with an application device such as a spray bottle or watering can equipped with a rose attachment.
- Step 5: Harvest broccolini when buds are about 2 inches long for best flavor. Cut just above soil level with sharp scissors or garden shears to avoid damaging the plant’s roots.
How to grow broccolini from seeds?
Broccolini is easy to grow from seed, but you must use a specific variety that has been bred for its unique taste and texture. You can also purchase plants from your local garden center, but it’s best to start with seeds if you want to experiment with different planting times and locations.
- Step 1: Soak seeds overnight in cool water before planting to ensure they germinate properly. The seeds should absorb enough moisture while in the seedling tray to swell and split open when planted in warm soil. The soaking time will depend on how long it takes for your soil to warm up enough for planting outside; if you live in a warmer climate, you may only need to soak your seeds for an hour or two before planting them in your garden bed. In colder climates where soil temperatures are cooler than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, soak your seeds overnight or until they begin to sprout before planting them in the ground.
- Step 2: Plant seeds 1/8 inch deep in rows 5 inches apart with 18 inches between rows in full sun or partial shade.
- Step 3: Keep soil moist until seedlings and leaves begin to emerge and continue watering regularly until plants are established (about 2 weeks).
- Step 4: Thin plants by leaving only 2 or 3 per row when they reach 3 inches tall; later thin again to 12 inches apart when plants reach 4 inches tall (or after first harvest).
Tips for Growing Broccolini Plants
Growing broccolini in your garden can be challenging, but with the right care and knowledge, your plant will thrive in your garden.
- The best time to plant them is mid to early spring, and mid to late summer for a fall harvest.
- Plant broccolini in soil that drains well. Avoid salty soil.
- Apply a layer of mulch to keep weeds out and preserve moisture.
- Fertilizers with an even ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are well-suited for use on broccolini crops. For an added nitrogen boost, you can either spray on compost tea or a diluted fish emulsion fertilizer.
- Always try to apply fertilizer in cool weather or early in the morning to help prevent foliage burn.
- You may also want to consider using a slow-release fertilizer that can last up to 2 months on one application.
- Once temperatures reach 90 degrees, shade plants with shade cloth or another light-colored material.
- Mulch is an important part of caring for your broccolini. It regulates soil temperature and helps prevent weeds from growing up around the base of the plant, which can interfere with its ability to get nutrients from the ground.
How to Harvest Broccolini
Broccolini is a cool-season vegetable that is usually harvested in the fall or winter months. Harvesting Broccolini is easy, but there are a few steps that need to be taken to ensure that you get the best yield possible.
- Step 1: When harvesting broccolini, you want to make sure you’re getting them before they become too large. Check the leaves on the plant, if they turn yellow or brown. They are ready for harvest just before flowering but when the heads are fully formed. You may also notice that some of the leaves are starting to fall off by themselves. If this happens, take them off before they start affecting other parts of your plant.
- Step 2: Harvest the broccolini when the stems reach about 4 inches long and heads begin to form. Cut the stem with pruning shears as close to the soil line as possible. Unlike broccoli, the stems are harvested along with the florets.
- Step 3: Shear away any leaves that are still attached to the stalk, including those at its base. You should remove the leaves because they can prevent sunlight from reaching other areas of your plant and make it harder for it to grow side shoots properly.
- Step 4: Store broccolini in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to four days or freeze it for up to six months.
Broccolini Pests, Diseases, and Treatment
Broccolini, like other cole crops, is susceptible to several pests and diseases as other members of the brassica family, including cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. A few of the most common problems include:
Downy mildew is caused by a fungal infection that affects both the leaves and heads of broccolinis. The disease causes yellowing leaves with white or gray patches on them, along with discoloration of the flowers. It thrives in hot, humid weather so this is usually a problem during the summer months when the air contains lots of moisture.
Treatment: The best way to prevent downy mildew is to plant resistant varieties such as Purple Sprouting or Calabrese as well as provide plenty of sunlight and airflow around your plant.
Cabbage looper larvae are yellowish green with pale green stripes down the back. They have three pairs of blue spots along each side and two pairs of red spots on their backsides. The larvae have a voracious appetite and can cause stunted growth or destroy its entire yield if left unchecked.
Treatment: If you find an infestation of cabbage loopers in your garden, spray them with insecticidal soap or neem oil. This is less toxic than insecticidal soap but also less effective against certain pests such as aphids and whiteflies.
Flea beetles feed on the leaves and stems, leaving behind large holes in the foliage. They also damage flower buds and seed heads, resulting in smaller than normal plants with fewer fruits. The larvae feed on plant roots. This pest is most prevalent when temperatures are between 70°F (21°C) and 90°F (32°C).
Treatment: The best way to control these is by using row covers or other physical barriers such as boards or straw mulch before planting starts in spring. If you don’t use row covers or other physical barriers, then hand-picking and destroying the plant debris are good options.
This is a very common fungal disease that attacks many crop. It appears as a white mold on the surface of leaves and stems. It can cause yellowing, stunting and leaf drop.
Treatment: You can prevent this disease by keeping plants well-watered, especially during dry periods and avoiding overhead watering. You can also avoid planting broccolini in the same spot where other brassicas have recently grown. Powdery mildew can also be treated if you spray plants horticultural oils on the foliage until runoff occurs.
Best Uses of Broccolini Plants
Broccolini is a great addition to any meal — it’s easy to prepare, versatile and delicious! Here are some of the best ways to enjoy broccolini:
Roasting broccoli brings out its natural sweetness and makes it tender enough that you can enjoy it raw or cooked. You can roast broccoli on its own as an appetizer or side dish, or add it to an entrée like stir-fries, casseroles and soups.
Steaming broccolini is one of the easiest ways to prepare this vegetable. You can steam it alone or add it to other vegetables such as carrots, peas or cauliflower for an added nutritional boost. Steaming allows the nutrients in the vegetables to remain intact while making them easier to digest than boiling or microwaving them would be.
Broccolini is delicious when stir-fried. The stalks are tender enough to eat raw and crunchy enough to stand up to heat, making them ideal for this quick cooking method. Add some garlic and ginger for extra flavor or try steaming the broccolini first before you stir-fry it with garlic, ginger and soy sauce for an Asian flair on your dinner plate.
Sautéing is a quick cooking method that involves browning food in oil or butter over medium heat in a skillet or frying pan until it reaches the desired doneness level. Broccolini can be sautéed with just about any other vegetable you have on hand — toss it in with your favorite greens or asparagus for some extra flavor.
Grilling broccolini gives it an earthy taste that’s enhanced by the smoky char from the grill. If you’re using olive oil as your coating agent, add some fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme for extra flavor and visual appeal. If you’re using butter instead of oil, add some crushed red pepper flakes for heat and color.
Does a broccolini plant keep on producing?
Yes, a broccolini plant will continue to produce new shoots as long as it has adequate water and nutrients to support its growth.
What are the health benefits of broccolini?
Broccolini has high levels of vitamin C. It also contains large amounts of potassium, folate and vitamin K. Broccoli sprouts contain even more nutrients than larger broccoli plants because they haven’t yet been exposed to sunlight or other environmental factors that cause them to lose some of their nutrients.
Can I eat the leaves?
Yes! They taste similar to Chinese kale and can be used in salads or stir-fries. You can also eat the flowers, which are edible too! The flowers are often used in Asian cooking as an edible garnish or stuffed with cheese as a snack food.
What are the side effects of broccolini?
Because broccolini is rich in vitamin C, it may cause diarrhea when consumed in large amounts. If you have a history of kidney stones or gout, talk to your doctor before eating this vegetable on a regular basis. The National Institutes of Health recommends that people with gout avoid eating fruits and vegetables with oxalate content greater than 10 milligrams per serving size per day because oxalates can increase the risk of kidney stones if consumed regularly.
Growing Broccolini is a relatively painless process that has great potential to be highly rewarding, although you may encounter some problems along the way. Just remember to keep your head up and don’t give up until you have reached your desired outcome. And if all else fails, there is always the option of seeking help from others. After all, gardening is meant to be fun and you should never be afraid to take chances!