Early Fall Rapini Broccoli
Seed Count: Approx. 100 seeds
Days to Maturity: 55 days
Description: Early Fall Rapini, also known as Broccoli Raab, is an Italian heirloom that's a close cousin to broccoli. It is quite a well known variety in the culinary world, and is characterized by its dainty cute florets that boast distinct, full bodied, bitter, slightly nutty, zesty, and mustard like taste. This gourmet floret, and its greens, do well in a variety of salads and cooked dishes, and can be enjoyed steamed or sautéed. This early bolting variety is best suited for early fall planting, and harvesting during the winter. Early Fall Rapini is super easy to grow, and offers a quick harvest time. This variety can tolerate a light frost, but should be protected if you get hard freezes.
How To Grow
Sowing: Broccoli grows best in cool weather, so starting your seeds indoors, 5-6 weeks before the last expected frost, will ensure a faster more successful crop. Right before the last frost, and when the seedlings reach about 6 inches tall, plant them 1-2' apart in rows 2-3' apart. For direct sowing seeds, plant them 1" deep and 3" apart with full sun exposure and rich soil, about 2-3 weeks before the last expected spring frost. Seed germination can take place with temperatures as low as 40 degrees F. For fall planting, direct sow your seeds in late July or August. I've also successfully grown broccoli in 5 gallon fabric pots, with garlic and onions at its base. However, grown in containers, they may need additional support to keep them upright. Broccoli can be grown in warmer climates, if sown as a fall crop, if sown in the spring you may end up with tiny heads like I did. For companion planting benefits, plant broccoli with onions, garlic, herbs, or potatoes; avoid planting broccoli with tomatoes or pole beans.
Growing: Keep the young plants watered and remove any weeds you see. Mulch helps discourage weeds and regulate soil temperature, which is important in warmer climates. Several applications of fertilizer or compost may also be needed during its growth cycle. If several nights of below freezing temperatures are expected, you add a protective cover for your plants. If they become too top heavy as they grow, provide a stake for support.
Harvesting: Harvest the main head while it is still tight, and before the florets begin spread apart, turn yellow, and open. When harvesting, cut at least 6" of the stem. Tasty side shoots will continue to develop along the stem, and can be harvested as they grow. The plant will keep producing as long as weather conditions are favorable. Allowing broccoli to produce seed will take an entire growing season, and may require digging up the plants for the winter or mulching them well, if you're in a warmer climate. Broccoli will cross pollinate with other members of the cabbage family such as cauliflower, and isolation is recommended to prevent cross breeding. Once the flowers have bloomed and produced seed pods, let them dry and carefully remove them from the plant (they split open very easily). Separate the seeds from the pods, and store in a dry, cool place for up to five years.