Calabrese is the large green headed broccoli commonly purchased in supermarkets. The other main type of broccoli, and frequently grown by gardeners, is sprouting broccoli. The main differences are as follows:
Calabrese is relatively fast growing. It is sown in the spring and eaten in late summer and autumn. It is slightly more tender and sweet than sprouting broccoli, and forms larger heads for eating.
- Sprouting Broccoli
Sprouting broccoli is relatively slow growing. It is sown in the spring and is ready to harvest late winter or the following spring after overwintering. The heads are relatively small, purple or white in colour, turn green during cooking, and have a more intense broccoli flavour.
Calabrese has the advantage of maturing faster and having larger heads. Set against this is that calabrese is easy to buy in the shops, is relatively to cheap, and the varieties and flavour of homegrown calabrese is not greatly different from what you can buy. In hot summers, calabrese has a tendency to run to seed. Watering the plants regularly can prevent this happening, as well as situating the plants in partial shade. F1 varieties are worth consideration as they are bred for reliability and to harvest earlier in the summer. The lead shoot should be picked first to encourage side shoots to develop.
Sprouting broccoli has a delicious flavour and has a big advantage with the timing of the harvest, as there are not many other vegetables available to pick in the spring. Whilst sprouting broccoli is available to buy in the shops, it is relatively more expensive, and white and purple varieties are seldom seen. By growing sprouting broccoli, a gardener can harvest something difficult to buy. The main disadvantage of sprouting broccoli is the long growing time together with the size of the plants. At nearly sixty centimetres wide and about 1 metre tall, these are big slow growing plants that take up a lot of space.
Both calabrese and sprouting broccoli varieties are susceptible to bird attack who love to munch on their leaves. Cabbage white butterflies will also lay their eggs on the plants, followed by a caterpillar attack that will devour the leaves. Both issues can be prevented by using a butterfly net.