The typically mild winters in Florida offers gardeners the opportunity to grow their favorite foods most months of the year. Right about now, many Florida gardeners are harvesting several of their cool season vegetables and taking a last chance at planting one more round of crops before the hot weather returns.
Cool season crops are generally planted August through February for North Florida, September through March for Central Florida, and October through February for South Florida, after the oppressive heat of the summer has passed. Some cool weather crops well adapted to Florida include: broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, collards, endive/escarole, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce (crisp, butter head, leaf, romaine), mustard, bulbing onions, bunching (green) onions, shallots, English peas, potatoes, radish, spinach, strawberry, and turnips.
One of my favorite cool season vegetables to grow is broccoli, for several reasons. This is a very easy plant to grow, and working in the garden during cooler weather is more comfortable. It has a very long harvest period, so you end up with enough to stock the fridge, freezer, and your neighbors. Broccoli has interesting leaves, so it can double as ornamental interest in the garden. Finally, I can use broccoli to make some hot and hearty meals for my family.
Broccoli is closely related to cauliflower since both are grown for the clusters of unopened flower buds and tender flower stalks. The Italian word brocco means sprout, bud, or shoot, from the Latin brachium meaning an arm or branch. The old standard variety `Waltham 29′ still is a top choice. It is ready to cut from 80-100 days from transplanting, and continues to form side shoots (secondary heads) after the main central head is cut.
Other varieties for Florida gardeners are `Green Mountain,’ `Spartan Early,’ `Atlantic,’ `Green Sprouting,’ `Green Comet,’ `Italian Green Sprouting,’ `DeCicco,’ `Green Duke,’ and ‘Packman.’ Cauli-broc has the tender texture and sweet flavor of broccoli, but has a lime-green head similar to cauliflower.