Last Year’s Broccoli

Broccoli-2nd Year productionI harvested the first of the season’s broccoli…but it was on last year’s plant.

The row of broccoli I planted this fall in my Arizona garden isn’t producing yet. This tough guy, however, survived from last year, through constant triple-digit summer temperatures, to leaf out and produce for the second season.

My daughter gardens in the city using raised beds and has been telling me of her successes getting some vegetables to survive more than one season, producing prolifically the next.

Being a biennial, broccoli is a good candidate for this experiment. It is also not as prone to the plethora of bugs as are other cole crops. So I left my garden row of broccoli intact last year after they went to seed. (I pruned off the extra stalks before they dropped seed.) This lone survivor was near a bit of shade, so I suspect that may be the secret to summer survival.

The heirloom variety I grow produces one central head (4-6”) and then smaller offshoots once that first harvest is made. (Notice multiple heads in the pic.) When allowed to grow, the veggie produces an ongoing crop until warm spring weather causes it to flower.

Broccoli-Freshly cut Each day I take my colander and knife and gather only what I need for that meal. Today, I cut one-fourth of the available produce on that plant. When the harvest exceeds my daily needs, I’ll blanch and freeze the excess.

One of my goals with seed saving is to develop sub-types that thrive in my Arizona conditions. Fall-sown crops must tolerate sand, alkaline soils, and freezing winter nights (22 degrees). Wouldn’t it be great if they could also go summer dormant to escape the brutal sun and then wake-up when the weather cools again…like this fellow did?

* * *

As a side note to this story…My husband, Jimmy, and I both seeded a fall crop of broccoli at the same time in our own separate garden patches. We planted a bit late in the season, so the wee fellows still have some growing to do. Jimmy and I joke about who is the better gardener. I knew he had forgotten about my little survivor from last year. When my husband got home from work, I showed him the cut broccoli and said, “Isn’t your plot producing yet?” His eyes got big. “No, how did you get yours to mature so fast?”

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