Broccoli, a biennial most commonly grown as an annual, is a must-have for gardeners in any climate. A member of the cabbage family, it’s unsurprising that broccoli might have been bred from a cabbage plant thousands of years ago. Today, it’s one of the most popular vegetables in the US and is grown in almost every state, with particularly large volumes coming out of California. Although different varieties of broccoli vary in size and shape, almost all are greenish-blue in color with an occasional purplish-green crown and have heads 3–6″ in diameter at maturity.
A bit confusing when it comes to classification, Spigariello Liscia is technically a broccoli grown for its leaves in a manner similar to broccoli raab. Leaves taste of broccoli mixed with kale and may be harvested throughout the plant’s entire life cycle. The adorable little crown that forms after approximately 70 days can also be harvested and eaten as one would larger varieties, but we wouldn’t plan on getting more than a mouthful of “broccoli,” so plan your menu accordingly! If allowed to flower, Spigariello Liscia will produce lovely little white blooms great for attracting pollinators.
Seed Depth: 1/4″
Space Between Plants: 6–12″
Space Between Rows: 6–12″
Germination Soil Temperature: 50–70°F
Days for Germination: 4–7
Sow Indoors: 3 to 4 weeks before average last frost.
Sow Outdoors: 4 to 6 weeks before average last frost or as soon as soil can be worked. Also, sow in late summer for fall harvest, or early fall for overwintering in warmer climates.
Grows best in cool weather, as hot temperatures will cause it to bolt. While plants ideally prefer a temperature range of 40-75°F, they can withstand temperatures as low as 25°F. Like most vegetables in the brassica family, Spigariello Liscia does not do extremely well in tropical or humid environments.
Natural: Full sun.
Artificial: Most indoor lighting systems such as HID or fluorescent are sufficient for Spigariello Liscia, but take care to allow ample space between the lamp and plants to avoid burning. Plants should receive at least 6 hours of light per day for optimal growth.
Soil: Prefers a nutrient rich, well-drained soil. Will grow best in slightly acidic to neutral soil i.e. between 6.0 and 7.5.
Soilless: Start seeds in a soilless mix of perlite with well-rotted manure or coco coir.
Hydroponics: Thrives in a variety of hydroponic systems but will do especially well in NFT and grow raft systems.
Aeroponics: Will thrive in an aeroponic environment.
Water: Requires low to moderate levels of water. Aim for 1–1.5 inches of water per week, depending on natural precipitation. In hot weather, increase irrigation to avoid wilting.
Nutrients: Requires high levels of nutrients. Lots of nitrogen and boron will improve yields, so add compost or compost tea for a nutrient-boost. If transplanting, incorporate manure or compost into the top several inches of soil where many of the feeder roots are located.
Foliar: Will benefit from a monthly feeding of liquid seaweed. Avoid spraying your leaves the week before you plan on harvesting.
Pruning: Trim damaged or diseased leaves throughout the growing period to promote new growth and keep your plants healthy.
Mulching: Use mulch such as straw or organic compost to suppress weeds and keep soil cool and moist.
Deficiency(s): A boron deficiency will cause plants to develop hollow stems. Add compost or spray with compost tea to amend.
Rotation: A 3- to 4-year rotation away from all crops in the brassica family is recommended to help prevent pest and disease issues.
Companions: Grows well with beets, bush beans, carrots, celery, chard, cucumber, dill, kale, lettuce, mint, nasturtium, onion family plants, oregano, potato, rosemary, sage, and spinach. Avoid nightshade family plants, pole beans, rue, mustard greens, grapes, and strawberries.
Harvest: Leaves may be harvested throughout the duration of the growing season. Younger leaves will be more tender and can be harvested starting around 45 days. To harvest, simply pick leaves off the plant starting at the bottom and leaving at least 2/3 of the plant with each harvest. Entire plants may also be harvested by cutting the plant down at the base of the stalk, just above soil level. Harvest heads around 70–80 days, if desired.
Storage: Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Do not wash leaves until you’re ready to eat them.
Fun Fact: While this varietal of broccoli may not be very popular in the states, in Italy the plant’s extremely well known and goes by the name Cima di Rape Spigarello. If you speak Italian, this native name adds even more confusion to the question of how to classify it since it’s technically a broccoli, grown like broccoli raab, and has a name that literally translates to “turnip top”!
Preserve: Can be blanched and frozen for later consumption. To freeze, boil leaves and stalks for 3 minutes before removing from heat and placing in a cold bath. Place leaves in freezer bags and store. Leaves and stalks will keep for up to a year when frozen.
Prepare: A versatile vegetable, Spigariello Liscia may be eaten raw, steamed, sautéed or added to any variety of soups or stews. To cook, simply de-spine the leaves and chop into smaller pieces, if desired.
Nutritional: Like other leafy greens, Spigariello Liscia is highly nutritious and is best when eaten raw or lightly steamed. This plant contains high levels of vitamin(s) A, B and C as well as folate and riboflavin.
Medicinal: Like its relatives in the brassica family, Spigariello Liscia has a high antioxidant content which makes it healthy for many of your body’s systems, as well as for overall health and longevity. These benefits of regular consumption include a lowered risk of diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Like other leafy greens such as kale, this plant can be prepared with very little effort for a very big flavor! Simply slice down either side of the spine and chop the leaves into smaller pieces. Sauté with a little olive oil and garlic, allowing you greens to crisp slightly to add some texture. Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!