Friday, 19 June 2015

When will my Broccoli be ready?

Although I am well known for my Purple Sprouting Broccoli, which I grow every year, I have little experience with the "ordinary" (i.e. Calabrese-style) Broccoli. This year I am growing some plants of the variety "De Ciccio", a variety that has been around for ages, but not one I have encountered before. I was kindly given some seeds for it by person I know via Twitter.

What I really need to know is how to tell when it is ready for picking. Like all Broccoli, I know that the correct thing to do is cut the main head first, to stimulate the production of side-shoots. But how big do I let the main head get? Is this anywhere near big enough yet?

To me, it doesn't look very big. Nowhere near as big as the heads you see on sale in the shops, that's for sure. However, it does look as if the flowers are getting ready to open, which is generally a sign of maturity. My concern is that the plant itself doesn't look mature. It is about 50cm tall, and still quite slender:

Here's a wider view:

I bet that head would be lovely to eat, but I'd need about six to make a serving! The other plants, although about the same size, have much smaller main heads.

Can anyone provide me with advice on this please? To pick or not to pick?

While I had the net pulled back to take these photographs, I had a close look at the Broccoli plant that was attacked by the root maggots. It seems to have recovered - presumably because the nematodes I applied successful eliminated the maggots, allowing the roots to re-establish.

In comparison with its siblings this plant is understandably very small (extreme left of photo below), but this might turn out to be a good thing because it may mature later and thus help with extending the cropping period.

The 2 big plants in the middle are Brussels Sprouts, the others are Broccoli

The Brussels Sprout plants are getting fairly tall now, and it won't be long before I need to raise the netting. I'm prepared for this though, and I have got some taller poles ready and waiting. I also plan to provide them with support by tying them to stout wooden stakes. This will be all the more necessary this year because we seem to be getting a lot more strong winds than normal.


  1. I'm afraid I don't have any experience either, but it doesn't look as though the head is going to get much bigger. I suppose it's a bit like cauliflowers, you can sometimes get whoppers and sometimes they're very small.

  2. It looks ready to pick to me. I've found that the size of the head and the thickness of the broccoli stem relate. Your stems aren't very wide, which means the main head won't be either. Broccoli buttons for a lot of reasons. But it all relates to stress. They don't like it when it gets too cold for too long. They don't like it if you hold their seedlings in pots too long. They don't like it if you don't water regularly (though maybe in your case, too much rain). But any stress can do it. Especially when they are small. I've had trouble with it in the past until I found some varieties that seemed OK with the stresses in my garden.

  3. Looks ready to harvest. Some of the buds seem to be showing a little yellow. De Ciccio produces a small head anyway, about 3-4 inches. Cutting it smaller rather than larger is also supposed to stimulate more side shoot production. I stopped growing that variety because you don't get much for the space and time invested, side shoot production wasn't impressive for me.

  4. I second daphne. This is known as "button head". Cut it now and eat it. Hopefully, you will get some nice shoots. If you start some seeds now, you can have brocin the fall.

  5. It's difficult to tell from a photo, but it looks like the plants are fairly tightly spaced. I set out my Di Ciccio broccoli on a minimum of 18-inch centers (about 45cm). They need a fair amount of space to produce even their modest "main" heads and the side shoots that follow. I agree that that head is ready to harvest.

  6. I only grew broccoli for the first time last year & am actually learning a lot from the comments on this post! My first attempt didn't produce a large head either - maybe only 3" or so across. I'm hoping to do better this year, but it's not looking promising so far.

  7. The calabrese that we grow has larger heads but it is a different variety. From other people's comments the size of the head may related to variety. If buds look about to open then you need to pick,

  8. Thanks for all your advice, Everyone. I have now picked that head of broccoli, and we shall see whether this leads to the formation of some decent side-shoots.

  9. I never had good results with De Ciccio. I found that modern F1 hybrids make a much nicer head, but you have to find a variety that works well in your conditions. If you have the space, trialing several different varieties at the same time will likely produce one that works well for you.


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