Romanesco Broccoli Care – How To Grow Romanesco Broccoli Plants
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By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Brassica romanesco is a fun vegetable in the same family as cauliflower and cabbage. Its more common name is broccoli romanesco and it produces lime green heads packed with smaller florets similar to its cousin, the cauliflower. Planting romanesco broccoli is a great way of providing variety in your family’s diet.
The unique flavor and the crazy looking plant are kid favorites and they can be involved in growing romanesco broccoli. Learn how to grow romanesco and expose your friends and family to a unique brassica that can be used fresh or cooked.
What is Romanesco?
Your first glimpse of this strange vegetable will have you wondering, what is romanesco? The neon green color is unearthly and the entire head is spiked unevenly. What at first appears to be from Mars, is actually a member of the cole family, which includes cabbage, broccoli, and other cool-season vegetables.
Romanesco grows much like cauliflower, with thick stalks and wide, rough leaves. The central head gets large, and the entire plant can span 2 feet (0.5 m.) in diameter. Leave a large space for growing romanesco broccoli, as it is not only wide but needs plenty of nutrients to grow the huge heads. The plant is hardy in USDA growing zones 3 to 10 and can grow well into fall in temperate areas.
How to Grow Romanesco
Broccoli romanesco needs well-drained soil in full sun. Prepare the seedbed with the addition of organic material and till well. Sow seeds in May if direct seeding. Planting broccoli romanesco in cooler zones is best done from starts. You can sow them in seed flats six to eight weeks before planting out.
Young romanesco broccoli care must include regular watering and weeding around the seedling to prevent competitive weeds. Set plants at least 2 feet (0.5 m.) apart in rows spaced 3 feet (1 m.) from each other
Broccoli romanesco is a cool-season plant that bolts when exposed to high heat. In temperate zones, you can get a spring crop and an early fall crop. Planting broccoli romanesco seed in late July to early August will achieve a fall crop.
Romanesco Broccoli Care
The plants need the same care that broccoli or cauliflower require. They are tolerant of some dry conditions but the best head formation occurs when they are consistently moist. Water from the base of the plant to prevent fungal problems on the leaves.
Side dress the plants with manure and fertilize them with a water-soluble fertilizer, twice during the heading period. Cut the heads off when they are the size you desire and store them in a cool dry place.
Broccoli romanesco is excellent, steamed, blanched, grilled, or just in a salad. Try replacing it in many of your favorite vegetable dishes.
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Broccoli is one of those vegetables that we tell our kids are good for them and as a result they refuse to eat it. But that is no reason to stop us growing this useful vegetable. In fact what we are concerned with here is the broccoli cauliflower cross known as Broccoflower and the Romanesco broccoli. I found an article on the Gardening Channel which has instructions on how to grow these vegetables and how to deal with common problems that can occur.
Two similar vegetables are sometimes called broccoflower. One is a trade-marked hybrid between broccoli and cauliflower, richer in vitamin A than either of its parents and also well endowed with vitamin C. Its cauliflower-shaped yellow-green heads have a sweet cauliflower-like taste.
The other is also called Romanesco broccoli. Its lime-green heads with conical florets may weigh up to 4-5 pounds at maturity. Care for the two vegetables is similar, but Romanesco is slower to mature and can grow larger. You can harvest cauliflower-type broccoflower 70 days after transplanting, but Romanesco requires nearly 100 days. Romanesco is an Italian heirloom with a nutty flavor and is a popular vegetable in fine restaurants.
How to Grow and Care for Broccoflower
Broccoflower is a cool-season crop. Northern gardeners should transplant 4-6 week-old broccoflower seedlings outside 2 weeks before the spring free-frost date (your local Cooperative Extension can tell you when that is). Southern growers may set transplants out in August for a fall harvest or (in very warm areas) plant seeds in October for a winter harvest.
Broccoflower thrives in a very rich soil with lots of nitrogen. Add several inches of finished compost or well-rotted manure to your soil before planting. You can mix in a small amount of blood meal for an extra nitrogen boost.
Mulching your broccoflower with lawn clippings (from a lawn that?s not treated with herbicides) will help to keep the soil cool and weed-free as well as providing an extra nitrogen boost when the clippings break down. Biweekly feeding with compost tea or fish emulsion will help your broccoflower to thrive.
I am a keen gardener and so created Garden Pics and Tips for people who love gardens and enjoy great pictures of plants and gardens. Also covered are practical tips on all aspects of gardening.
Q. My Romanesco Doesn’t Look Like It Should
This is a follow up to my first question. I read the article on the Romanesco broccoli as well as many others. My romanesco never looked like the romaneco in the picture. It never had a tight head and always had leaves between what appeared to be stalks. I've grown regular broccolis and cauliflower with success in the past. What would make it fail to head and just go straight to seed. No article covers whether it would get side shoots if I were to cut the head off. I tasted a stalk and it's really bitter and actually looks like it is going to seed.
It's possible that you have broccoli rabe. From your description, that's my guess. I've never eater nor grown any, but am familiar with the plant. It is very possible that somewhere in the packaging of seed, broccoli rabe seed got into the romanesco packet by mistake. (It happens more often than you'd think!) Broccoli rabe is bitter, and doesn't make heads. It's definitely not a tight, neat head like broccoli or romanesco. If it's turning yellow (like old broccoli would), it's probably bolting. This article might help: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/broccoli-rabe/broccoli-rabe.htm
A delicious, sweet variety you can pick over and over again. Source: ndrwfgg
Sprouting broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) is a tall, leafy, stalky plant with individual florets instead of a central head. Slightly more bitter than typical broccoli, the leaves, stalks, and florets are all edible. When searching for varieties online, you will bump into information about broccoli sprouts, which are germinated broccoli seeds grown for a few days and then added to salads and sandwiches. Sprouts are delicious but are very different from sprouting broccoli.
Sprouting broccoli is commonly planted in fall and overwintered for an early spring harvest. 6 to 8 weeks of cold temperatures (at or below 50°F/10°C ) are needed to produce florets. Overwintering might seem like a daunting commitment, but early spring harvests are so welcome after a long winter!
The main types of sprouting broccoli are purple and white. Although a vivid purple when raw, purple sprouting broccoli turns green when cooked. White sprouting broccoli has white florets and a milder, sweeter taste than the purple variety. White sprouting broccoli is more common in Britain but its popularity is increasing in the U.S.
|Name||Days To Maturity||Description||Where To Buy|
|Burgundy||37 days||Heirloom. Purple florets and green-purple stems with fewer leaves than other varieties.||Buy seeds|
|Santee||80-115 days||Hybrid. Green stems with purple florets. Plant in either early spring for a fall harvest or as a winter crop in mild areas.||Buy seeds|
|Red Fire||140 days||Hybrid. Bright purple florets. Ideal variety for overwintering but will die in temperatures below 20°F/-7°C.||Buy seeds|
|White Sprouting Broccoli||220 days||Open-pollinated. White sprouting variety. May produce fewer florets than purple varieties.||Buy seeds|
|Burbank||220 days||Hybrid. White sprouting variety from Britain. Slender light green stalks with small white florets. May produce fewer florets than purple varieties.||Buy seeds|
The history of Romanesco broccoli
Romanesco tastes like a nuttier and crunchier version of cauliflower, and in my opinion, is more flavorful than either broccoli or cauliflower.
It dates back to the 15th or 16th century, where it was thought to originate in the Lazio region of Italy. (Rome, from which the plant gets its name, is the capital of Lazio.)
Called broccolo romanesco or cavolo romanesco by the Italians, it was grown in the countryside and didn’t make its way to the United States until the 20th century.
Botanists believe that Romanesco broccoli was developed through cross-breeding, and its naturally occurring pattern was reinforced by human selection over centuries. The cultivar is both an heirloom and a hybrid, depending on the specific seed you have.
Several varieties of Romanesco broccoli exist, and some farmers have crossed open-seeded varieties with each other to produce hybrids that are faster growing.
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Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Botanical Interests both carry an open-pollinated heirloom variety, and a few seed catalogs carry F-1 hybrids like “Veronica” Romanesco brooccoli.
Romanesco is typically found in better supermarkets, health food markets, and farmers’ markets from spring through early fall. If you can’t source it locally, you can try an online natural food co-op like Azure Standard, which carries organic Romanesco broccoli all summer.
The plant is grown and cooked like your run-of-the-mill broccoli, but its pointy fractals are too pretty to puree or dice into little chunks.
I love to roast or grill the heads whole and drizzle them with sauce (my favorites include a creamy feta dressing, balsamic vinaigrette, and carrot top salsa), and for special occasions I make the Roasted Romanesco and Broccolini Salad With Wilted Arugula from The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook.
HEIRLOOM. With beautiful, apple-green whorled heads, this variety has been a culinary delight since the 16th century.
Days To Maturity The average number of days from when the plant is actively growing in the garden to the expected time of harvest.
Fruit Size The average size of the fruit produced by this product.
Sun The amount of sunlight this product needs daily in order to perform well in the garden. Full sun means 6 hours of direct sun per day partial sun means 2-4 hours of direct sun per day shade means little or no direct sun.
Spread The width of the plant at maturity.
Height The typical height of this product at maturity.
Sow Method This refers to whether the seed should be sown early indoors and the seedlings transplanted outside later, or if the seed should be sown directly in the garden at the recommended planting time.
How to Sow and Plant
Broccoli may be direct sown or started indoors early for fall and spring crops, or purchased as transplants for a fall crop.
- Start seeds indoors about 8 weeks before outdoor planting.
- Sow seeds ¼ inches deep in seed-starting formula
- Keep the soil moist at 70 degrees F
- Seedlings emerge in 10-21 days
- As soon as seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.
- Seedlings do not need much fertilizer, feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions.
- If you are growing in small cells, you may need to transplant the seedlings to 3 or 4 inch pots when seedlings have at least 3 pairs of leaves before transplanting to the garden so they have enough room to develop strong roots.
- Before planting in the garden, seedling plants need to be “hardened off”. Accustom young plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect them from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or bring containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning. This hardening off process toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding.
Sowing Directly in the Garden:
- Sow in average soil in a sunny location in early spring or in midsummer for a fall crop.
- In rows 2 feet apart, sow seeds thinly and cover with ¼ inch of fine soil.
- Keep evenly moist. Water gently.
- Seedlings emerge in 10-21 days.
- Thin to stand about 16 inches apart when seedlings are 1-2 inches high.
Planting from Transplants in Fall:
- Select a location in full sun with good rich moist organic soil.
- Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones.
- Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball. Space plants 1-2 feet apart in rows 2 feet apart.
- Carefully remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the root ball with your hands to encourage good root development.
- Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand.
- Use the plant tag as a location marker.
- Thoroughly water and apply a light mulch layer on top of the soil (1-2 inches) to conserve water and reduce weeds.
Broccoli Romanesco is a garden vegetable in the Brassica family, which includes cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, mustard, kale, and numerous other edible plants. This unusual looking vegetable can be found in some grocery stores, and can also be grown in the garden if you live in a temperate zone. Since the plants can get quite large, prepare to set aside a large area in the garden for growing Broccoli Romanesco. It can be eaten raw or lightly cooked, and has a nutty, slightly spicy flavor which some consumers find quite enjoyable.
In appearance, Broccoli Romanesco is truly bizarre. The vegetable illustrates a fractal pattern, growing a spiral head composed of conical florets which also prove to be spirals upon close examination. The vegetable has a greenish tinge, and giant waxy leaves which can almost entirely conceal the edible heads of the plant. Mathematicians sometimes use the plant to illustrate fractals, since it is stunning to look at in addition to being edible after class.
The vegetable originates in Italy, where it was first identified in the 16th century. There is some dispute over the name of the plant, since it does not really look all that much like broccoli, and it has a very different taste. It can be divided like cauliflower or broccoli, since it has a cluster of individual stalks around a central stem. It is especially important to be careful when cooking Broccoli Romanesco, because it can acquire a very strange texture if is cooked too long. Most cooks prefer to lightly steam or saute it to avoid this problem.
The planting season for Broccoli Romanesco is March through June, and people living in frosty regions should wait until the last frost has passed before planting. When growing Broccoli Romanesco in the garden, prepare a patch of partially shaded alkaline soil, and plant seeds or seedlings at least 18 inches (46 centimeters) apart, to give the plants plenty of room to grow. You can lightly fertilize the soil to promote growth, and the seedlings should be mulched to retain moisture in warmer climates. Water moderately, and harvest the heads of Broccoli Romanesco when they have fully matured, which typically takes around four months.
If you are picking out Broccoli Romanesco in the store, look for firm heads without any sign of limpness or floppiness. Check for slimy areas and spots of discoloration, which indicate that the vegetable may be old, and avoid shriveled or dry-looking specimens. Keep Broccoli Romanesco in the fridge for up to seven days, and try eating it raw with spicy dips or lightly steaming it with other vegetables for a refreshing meal.
Romanesco superficially resembles a cauliflower, but it is light green in color, and its form is strikingly fractal in nature. The inflorescence (the bud) is self-similar in character, with the branched meristems making up a logarithmic spiral. In this sense the bud's form approximates a natural fractal each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral. This self-similar pattern continues at several smaller levels. The pattern is only an approximate fractal since the pattern eventually terminates when the feature size becomes sufficiently small. The number of spirals on the head of Romanesco broccoli is a Fibonacci number. As a vegetable Romanesco is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fiber and carotenoids. The causes of its differences in appearance from the normal cauliflower and broccoli have been modeled as an extension of the preinfloresence stage of bud growth, but the genetic basis of this is not known.