Calabrese is a member of the cabbage family. It is often confused with Belgian endive, although they are not the same plant. They grow in various areas of Portugal and in the Mediterranean area. The productive peak of the season is between June and August. The low growing season is between January and February with an exceptionally good productivity in March and April. It can also be grown on a windowsill.
Most Calabrese broccoli heads are hardy plants, hardy even in the worst climate conditions. For best quality broccoli production, keep a sharp lookout for early sprouting heads. For large Calabrese broccoli heads, sow them from the bottom of the stalk up to the top of the canes in late spring for harvesting in the summer. For direct sowing, sow from spring to late summer. Do not disturb root growth when transplanting, bareroot plants are susceptible to frost damaging roor.
One variety of Calabrese broccoli is the curly variety, which is more widely available. The leaves are short and curl in a pattern when fully mature. The flowers are large and have four ray-like petals. The broccoli cauliflower flower appears to be little buds which have swollen red or yellow faces. When cooking, the cooked broccoli cauliflower shoots produce a clear liquid which can sometimes be utilized as a salad dressing.
The other types of Calabrese used in cooking are direct sown, non-seasoned and brassicas. All are known for their firm tenderness and high yield. The broccoli cauliflower flower produces a clear liquid when boiling, while the non-seasoned and direct sown varieties do not. The buds and leaves can be harvested when they are fully developed for maximum yield.
In addition to broccoli, another variety of Calabrese vegetables are cabbage. Both cabbage and cauliflower are used as a primary ingredient in soups, stews, sauces and salads. The number of species of cabbage and cauliflower has increased dramatically over the last century due to their widespread cultivation. Today, there are nearly 500 species of the cabbage family.
Grow broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, or both in a raised bed with firm ground beneath. Space them at least one inch apart for maximum productivity. Keep them watered while they are growing. Remove any weeds during the growing season and fertilize with compost or garden soil amendments, if necessary. Avoid spraying pesticides while the plants are young.
Once established, leave the plants alone. Mow occasionally but keep the clippings on the ground for your next harvest. About two pounds of surplus material may be collected annually. About half of this should be directed toward making compost. About a third of the clippings should be divided and sold in the garden markets and half should be compost. The rest can be kept in moist wooden baskets or left in the family compost heap.
If seed potatoes, leeks or onions are being planted in the crop, they should be sown in separate pots before planting in the existing ground. Sow them by cutting about an inch above soil level just above the seed. The plants will need good drainage to become established. For planting success, do not compact the soil between the seed and plants.
Grow seedlings directly from cuttings without covering them with vermiculite. Cut about one inch above soil level and about four inches away from the root system. Dig a hole about six inches deep and about three inches wide and hold the seedlings in the hole. Plant five or six cauliflower shoots in the holes every three or four days until the seedlings are fully developed. Water the seedlings only once a week in the beginning and continue to do so until the seedlings are approximately a month old.
Cauliflower shoots that are not well developed when picking off the flower heads should be removed immediately. They will bruise easily in the hand and may even die if they are not carefully removed before harvesting. This is especially true for young plants that are in the rising phase when they are susceptible to high stress. Remove the shoots without washing them with water and place them in a strainer to dry quickly to prevent spoilage.
Harvest all of the seeds on a growing plant that has become well established. Remove any green growth that is visible on the outside of the plant. Use a sharp knife to cut the flesh back about one inch at a time. This will leave a nice, white collar. Use a compost bucket or sifter to sift through the remains of the plant to remove any leftover materials. Once you have removed all sodding material, press the sodding material down into a ceramic pot to ensure proper placement for the next crop of plants.