Thursday, 18 April 2013

Harvesting Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Many of you will know that I am very partial to Purple Sprouting Broccoli. In fact I would go so far as to say that it is my favourite vegetable (well, at certain times of the year anyway). You will therefore appreciate that the act of harvesting PSB is for me a deeply enjoyable experience!

This is a mature plant of PSB "Red Arrow", ready for cutting:


I cut the central part of the flowering head, and a few of the sideshoots, using a very sharp knife. It is important to make a clean cut.


This is the plant afterwards:


The removal of the main head will encourage the sideshoots to grow more vigorously. There must be about 15 of them on this plant at present:


Unfortunately there was also one of these:


At least I could only see one... But I seem to have got him before he had caused any significant damage.

Here is a closer look at the main head. You can see that even this bit is really just a cluster of smaller shoots.


When preparing the vegetable for cooking, I usually disassemble the head into a number of separate pieces.


The thicker stem cooks a lot more slowly than the flowers, so separating things makes it easier to cook the shoots to the perfect degree of done-ness - which incidentally only takes a couple of minutes, literally.

And these are some sideshoots, commonly referred to as "spears".  When preparing them for cooking, I normally remove most, but not all, of the leaves.


This beautiful and tasty vegetable needs very careful cooking. I usually boil my broccoli, in a large pan of water, and have a colander handy for draining the veg as soon as it is cooked. If you leave it standing in the cooking water for even another minute it can easily become over-cooked and mushy. When cooked this vegetable is very delicate and it is best handled with a pair of tongs- or even your fingers if you can bear the heat. It doesn't take kindly to be jostled roughly in amongst a serving-dish full of other veg. Another point for the cook to note is that broccoli goes cold very quickly, so it is best to cook it when everything else is ready.

If you need any ideas for cooking PSB, you'll find quite a few here on my blog (use the "Search this blog" facility?). How about this one from a few days ago: Pasta with Gorgonzola, Walnuts and PSB.

17 comments:

  1. I'm so missing my psb this year after the pesky slugs got all my seedlings last year, and it's so expensive to buy in the shops, definitely a good veg to grow yourself. I'll try again this year.

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  2. I also picked some PSB today Mark but it did not look as good as yours! And there is not much!
    I lost some in the severe cold at the turn of the year, the pigeons subsequently ravaged them and the cold biting wind slowed them so much they could not keep up with the pigeons.
    I can console my myself with the veg I like even more the PSB. This is the green shoots that appear on what is left of my brussels sprout plants. Fantastic, my mouth waters as I think about this veg.

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  3. NO ideas need this year I'm afraid - enjoy yours.

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  4. I picked my first pickings yesterday. Just so tender and tasty. Even though it takes so long to grow from seed it is worth every minute.

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  5. It looks delicious. I wish any kind of broccoli were hardy here over the winter. I'll have to wait until June to eat mine. Not the PSB though. I've never tried that one.

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  6. I'm afraid I didn't have much success growing broccoli. But I will have to try again (although I may skip it this year). I think I'd be checking your plants daily for those little green munchers!

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  7. What a beautiful crop. Once cooked do you dress is with anything? A dab of butter, a pinch of salt perhaps?

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    1. David, I usually just dunk it in the gravy or sauce which we're having with the other parts of the meal. I've tried it once or twice with a quick warm dressing made with garlic and wine vinegar, which is very nice.

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    2. Our favourite veg & not just for the sprouts. The leaves are very nice too - like spring greens. Usually we simply steam sprouts or leaves for a few minutes - delicious. The flavour & texture is not so good when overcooked. When cooked they should have a good bright green colour & the sprouts should still have a purple tinge. I find this washes out if boiled in water. Thicker stalks I slice once length-ways to speed cooking. Great with pasta & tomato sauces, stir fries, smoked mackerel, or pretty much anything!

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    3. Also - they are hardy here in the North-East UK but pigeons love them - we've made some large lightweight chicken-wire cages that can be lifted off easily. I have tried the sprouts with a nice butter-lemon sauce - possibly called "vierge"

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  8. Thank you for this post and all the wonderful pictures! It's my first winter growing PSB so it's helpful to have a visual guide :-) And you were still/already finding caterpillars in April? Don't those little guys ever quit?!?

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  9. Primroses are one of my favourites too. they are abundant here in south devon. I Like your broccoli tips, I took my first pickings today, looking forward to it for mothers day lunch.

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  10. Thank you, Mark, for your tips on harvesting, as we have successfully grown PSB for the first time this year - ignored it over winter and then amazed to see purple shoots on top! Of course spent a lot of time picking off munchers last year, so not entirely effortless. Just about to harvest but no idea which bit first. Will be trying brussels this year too so also looking forward to those side shoots, Roger.

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  11. My psb has got yellow flowers...?? Never grown it before...any ideas? Nikki

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  12. Nikki, that means you have left it too long. You should harvest the spears before the flowers open. However, since you have not done that this time, why not leave the flowers for the bees to enjoy?

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  13. In the first growing season, can you eat some of the leaves? The leaves are yummy, am wondering if we just take a few whether that would be a problem. I know I need to wait till next season to get the heads and will have to cover it over the winter. I also need to remove some of the leaves as its shading out other things, it's doing very well. Thank you.

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    1. I don't think taking off a few leaves would do much harm, as long as you don't overdo it - the leaves are the "Powerhouse" of the plant of course. If you do remove some leaves, you might as well eat them!

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