Broccoli & Calabrese

Broccoli & Calabrese

Although sold in supermarkets under the same name, broccoli and calabrese are two different plants. The difference being that broccoli (winter sprouting) is an over wintered crop, whereas calabrese produces its crop before winter. Both belong to the brassica family and have similar growing conditions.

How to Cook >> Popular Varieties

Growing Conditions

Soil Type: fertile rich firm soil.

Conditions: Full sun.

Ease of Cultivation: Moderate.

Type: Flower and Bud Vegetable.

Hardiness: Hardy in most regions of the UK.

When to Sow: Spring.

Harvest Season: Calabrese: August to October; Broccoli: late summer to following spring.

Planting and Growing Broccoli & Calabrese


Follow standard crop rotation rules, by not growing in an area of ground that has been used for brassicas in the past three years.

Provide a well-tilled finely prepared soil. Ideally, dig in some well-rotted manure in the autumn prior to planting.

When to Sow

Seeds can be sown in drills in an sheltered position in the spring. Allow 1ft (30cm) between rows. Succession sow for a longer harvest period. Thin seedlings initially to 6in (15cm) apart and finally to around 2ft (60cm) apart (depending on variety).

Alternatively sow in early spring under glass, for planting out in June and July. Firm soil around the roots to encourage hard stems. Sprouting broccoli develop into larger plants that calabrese so will require plenty of growing spacing between them.

Calabrese is not frost hardy so the plants should be discarded in the autumn. For the hardier broccoli, a mid-autumn sowing can be made to mature over winter, ready for harvesting in the spring.

Water well until properly established, and water liberally during dry hot weather.

Taking Care of Broccoli & Calabrese

Earth-up sprouting broccoli around the stems to 4in (10cm) in the autumn, to help stabilise the plant and prevent wind rock.

Pests and Diseases

Generally disease free if proper crop rotation is adhered to. Cover crops with netting to deter pests such as birds and cabbage white.

Harvesting Broccoli & Calabrese

Calabrese produces green heads in the autumn and broccoli produces both purple and white sprouting varieties that are usually ready in the following spring, although several modern varieties can be picked much earlier.

Broccoli heads are usually harvested on a 'cut-and-come-again' basis in the spring. So just two or three plants is usually enough for one family.

Harvest calabrese heads from August to October. Once the main sphere is harvested, smaller side shoots will develop, producing a second crop.

How to Cook Broccoli & Calabrese

Calabrese stays green but purple and white sprouting turn green on cooking. Freshly picked heads give the best flavour.

Wash thoroughly. Remove any large leaves and tough stalks. Cook in lightly salted boiling water for 10 minutes. Alternatively steam for 20-25 minutes.

Nutritional Value

Broccoli is very low in calories. It is relatively high in protein and contains potassium, manganese, iron, folate and vitamins C, K1 and E.

Popular Varieties of Broccoli & Calabrese


Popular varieties include Purple Sprouting and White Sprouting.

Broccoli 'Burbank' (White Sprouting) is a strong, vigorous plant with a high yield of large, creamy-white spears from February onwards. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Broccoli 'Early Purple Sprouting' (Purple Sprouting) is hardy and easy-to-grow, producing masses of tender purple broccoli shoots. Height to 3ft (90cm), spread to 2ft (60cm). Seeds available from Van Meuwen.

Broccoli 'Summer Purple' (Purple Sprouting) has been especially bred for early summer harvesting. Will produce high yields if picked regularly. Good heat tolerance. Harvest from July to November. Height to 3ft (90cm), spread to 2ft (60cm). Seeds available from Van Meuwen.

Broccoli 'Purple Rain' F1 Hybrid (Purple Sprouting) is a British bred sprouting that can be harvested through the summer and into the autumn. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Broccoli 'Red Arrow' (Purple Sprouting) is an early cropping high yield sprouting, producing lots of tender flower buds.


The flavour of calabrese is milder than broccoli and is an easier crop to grow. Some varieties will provide a second flush of smaller heads.

Broccoli 'Belstar' (F1 Hybrid) is a high yield calabrese with an excellent flavour. The domed, bluish-green, heads are excellent boiled, steamed or cooked in a stir fry. Plant in succession for a continual harvest from summer into autumn. keeps in good condition for a long time, producing plenty of side shoots once the main head is harvested. Height to 18in (45cm), spread to 16in (40cm). Seeds available from Van Meuwen.

Broccoli 'Ironman' (F1 Hybrid) provides on of the longest cropping periods from late May right through to October. Good tolerance to hollow stem and resistance to bolting. Ideal for closer spacing on small plots. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Broccoli 'Komodo' (F1 Hybrid) is reliable with good disease resistance. A strong grower that produces dense, dark green heads from July into autumn. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Broccoli 'Monclano' (F1 Hybrid) is a hardy variety with excellent flavour, heavy yields and resistance disease. Sow several times through spring for successional harvests from August to November.

Broccoli 'Sibsey' (F1 Hybrid) is sweet and tasty enough to be eaten raw. High yielding.

Broccoli 'Spiridon' (F1 Hybrid) is a later maturing variety with good frost tolerance. Produces large domed heads. Thrives best in moist, rich, well-drained soil. Available at Thompson & Morgan.


This is often listed as a calabrese but looks more like green cauliflower with large pyramid-shaped heads that have a unique delicate flavour.

Broccoli 'Romanesco' developed in Scotland, this popular variety has a very sweet crispy taste. Delicious eaten raw or steamed. Height to 18in (45cm), spread to 16in (40cm). Seeds available from Van Meuwen.

Plant Groups