May 5, 2016

I less-than-fondly recall growing my first crop of broccoli. Like most of my other “firsts” on the farm, it was a total disaster.

Broccoli is a a surprisingly tough crop to grow. It is very fickle. It likes cool weather, and not too cold and definitely not too hot. Broccoli attracts one of the biggest pests on the farm and this little caterpillar makes babies faster than a hipster can say, “half caf double latte with non GMO soy please”. On top of all that, the harvest window is ridiculously short – sometimes less than a few hours in the heat of summer. So you can imagine how frustrating it was to plant hundreds of plants, weed and water them all spring, and not even get a single crown of broccoli. Ah, memories from my first year. If only they would go away.
My second year was basically a repeat of our first year and so I won’t go into that at all.

But then came Christina.

That year, we focused on broccoli. We grew the finest seedlings. These little broccoli babies were sweet. Nice and tall and dark green and ready at the right time in April. We got them in the garden just ahead of a nice rain which watered them in and got them off to a fast start. Growing plants quickly is the best way to handle pests. Grow a plant big and strong and healthy and most can resist insects. While it certainly helped that we had a cool spring, we harvested the broccoli at the right time and soaked it in a light salt water bath. The salt water forces all the worms to crawl out of the broccoli where we could skim them off with a net. That season’s broccoli was spectacular. We had lots and it was delicious!And ever since, we’ve grown some of the finest broccoli in Chicago.

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