Purple Sprouting broccoli (my favorite winter vegetable) takes an incredibly long time to mature. A reader comment prompted me to think again about this amazing biennial plant.
Annual broccoli planted in spring or summer can produce in as little as 65 days, but Purple Sprouting needs to get started during the heat of the summer and size up a bit before fall. If started by mid-July, you should have plants that are knee-high before the days get so short and cool that growth grinds to a halt. But in late winter they’ll take off again and start pumping out the purple in very early spring (February) on plants that can be waist-high.
First you’ll get a small central head, and after you cut that, numerous shoots will appear from the axillary buds at the base of the leaves. Cut when 6 to 10 inches long and look for more to appear. I can often get a half-dozen meals out of one plant, and the harvest time can stretch over three months.
Compared to summer or fall broccoli, Purple Sprouting is an all-star producer, and well worth the wait.
Crops seeded now, during the warmest, driest part of the year, need extra-close attention.
A note on the cabbage butterfly:
Actually called the imported cabbage worm (Pieris rapae), this is the common white butterfly with black wing dots that jerkily careens around our gardens. It is looking for plants of the Brassica genus.
This pest lays its eggs (tiny white or yellow groups of them) on the underside of the leaves. When they hatch, the larvae (a tiny green worm) feed on the leaves. Their feeding can destroy a young plant,
so I keep the floating row cover on until the plant is large enough to defend itself.
Another nice thing about winter gardening: this pest is much less prevalent. I rarely see them after about early October.