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Broccoli and Cauliflower

Broccoli has become a culinary star, out-pacing cauliflower, its cousin, in sales and popularity. (Photo by Gayl Punzalan)

Because broccoli is dark green, it signals its virtues before you even have a mouthful while Cauliflower for all its paleness is no shrinking violet in the kitchen, either. Both are high in vitamins A, C and K and are full of fibre. Cauliflower provides a good source of manganese. Broccoli is the place to go for potassium. A cup of cooked broccoli will give you 97 percent of your daily Vitamin C requirements. One stalk of raw broccoli provides as much vitamin C as 2 ½ pounds of oranges!

Broccoli has become a star of the modern kitchen and should be a star in your veggie patch, too, along with its cousin cauliflower. They are different cultivars of the same species.  Broccoli is Brassica oleracea italica. Cauliflower is Brassica oleracea var. botrytis. As you can see, they are kissing cousins.

They both have similar growing needs: they like it cool and mature late.

Broccoli is not a traditional vegetable in these parts, indeed. It didn’t show up in North America until the 1920s, when it was brought over by Italian immigrants. However, it had been a hit in the Mediterranean for centuries and was mentioned by Pliny the Elder who well understood its shining qualities.

Cauliflower is no slouch when it comes to either nutrition or exciting varieties. Above cauliflower ‘Veronica Romanesco.’

Cauliflower, too, came from the Mediterranean, but it arrived in France and Britain long before its cousin and so had a longer and more loyal following for many years. Recently, with the rise in popularity of broccoli, cauliflower sales have dropped off dramatically.

Grow them both broccoli and cauliflower. They get along very well together in the garden and on the table.

Plant them from seed about 18 inches apart and 1/4 to 1/2 an inch deep in May for a late crop. Plant transplants for an earlier crop. You can start your transplants indoors starting in March. They like humus-rich, neutral soil.

Perfectly white cauliflowers will benefit from some shading of the curds once they emerge to keep them white.

Both should be harvested when the florets begin to open or separate, but broccoli can be harvested more than once as new sprouts will emerge from the cut stalk.

One note of caution: brassicas as a crop should be rotated every three of four years to avoid disease.

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