Kailaan Chinese Broccoli
Seed Count: Approx. 100 seeds
Days to Maturity: 45-70 days
Description: Kailaan Chinese Broccoli, also known as Chinese Kale, or Gai Lan, is a heat tolerant variety often grown for its thick long, stalks, crinkled leaves, and dainty florets. Its florets can be used to substitute regular broccoli in any recipe. The deep blue-green leaves and stems are sweet and slightly bitter, with a complex flavor profile. Kailaan Chinese Broccoli is used in a variety of Asian dishes, but honestly can be used anywhere. Even the thinned out seedlings make for a delicious treat. I love Chinese broccoli sautéed with some garlic, a bit of soy sauce, and sesame oil; just make sure to blanch them first, if you want a more tender finish. Although, they prefer cooler temperatures, Chinese Broccoli is more heat tolerant than most kale and broccoli varieties, so it's well suited for hotter areas. If you like broccoli and bok choy, then you will love Chinese broccoli since it is kind of somewhere in the middle. Plus, it is quick to harvest, and will make lots of side shoots after the initial harvest. This variety is best enjoyed before its florets open and boast their dainty little white flowers.
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, since they prefer rich soil. 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.