Fall for Broccoli

Grow it this fall, and you will enjoy the most tender and flavorful broccoli you've ever eaten--long after the summer garden is a memory.

By Kris Wetherbee


Broccoli Brethren
Broccoli is a cool-season vegetable with its roots in the Mediterranean region. Along with other cole crops, such as cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, broccoli is a descendant of wild cabbage. What's even wilder is that broccoli comes in two forms—okay, maybe three, depending on who you talk to.

The heading type forms one large head of flower buds on a central stalk, with some varieties forming harvestable side shoots once the central head is cut.

The sprouting type forms lots of small florets in the leaf axils.

The Romanesco type—that questionable third type—is unique, with spiraling, conical clusters ascending into apple green heads. It's neither broccoli nor cauliflower but rather in a class by itself.

The 'Arcadia' broccoli in our test garden is mulched with straw to control weeds yet allow water to reach the soil. Opposite: Broccoli tastes best and is most nutritious when harvested in the morning.

When broccoli begins to form heads, feed it with compost tea or other organic fertilizer to help maximize spear production.

Best Broccoli Varieties for Fall
In our test gardens around the United States and those of experts we interviewed, these varieties are the top broccoli performers for growing at the end of the season.

Variety Name 'Arcadia'
Days To Maturity 63
Description Vigorous plants with firm, frosty blue-green heads about 8 inches across, followed by plenty of side shoots.
Comments These disease-resistant plants are also tolerant of heat and cold stress.

Variety Name 'Flash'
Days to Maturity 50
Description Fast, early, and tasty harvests of deep green heads and outstanding fall flavor that's extra sweet. Medium 6-inch heads have tight beads and good side-shoot production once the central head is cut.
Comments Very heat-resistant and disease-tolerant.

Variety Name 'Gypsy'
Days to Maturity 58
Description Fast becoming a fall favorite among many market growers due to its great taste, uniform yield, and well-domed heads on large, healthy plants. Medium green heads with small- to medium-size beads are also great for fresh eating.
Comments Holds up to heat and tolerant of downy mildew.

Variety Name 'Marathon'
Days to Maturity 62 to 68
Description Large, beautiful blue-green heads with fine beads are deep and well domed, followed by good side-shoot production.
Comments Widely adapted and a good performer across the regions, with excellent cold tolerance.

Variety Name 'Premium Crop'
Days to Maturity 58 to 62
Description Vigorous grower and high yielder of delicately flavored, deep blue-green heads of fine quality. Large (9- to 10-inch) dome-shaped heads are compact with a fine bead; fall crops often produce side shoots.
Comments Disease- and heat-tolerant.