In your garden: Right formula for hybrid Chevalier
The calabrese version of broccoli itself has two variants. The version grown commercially matures quickly and has a large single head. Once harvested the rest of the plant is discarded.
The F1 hybrid Chevalier, the variety I grow, also matures quickly with a good sized head, but when this is cut the plant goes on to produce a succession of smaller side shoots called spears. Cropping of these can continue until well into the autumn and the total weight of the spears can be almost as much as the main head.
F1 hybrids are noted for their consistent and regular growth. Chevalier follows the pattern and all the plants from the same sowing mature about the same time. Once mature the head doesn't stand in good condition for long before flowering. Once harvested it needs to be used within about three days before going yellow. That's all a bit of a problem if you don't visit your plot frequently and have planted out a lot of calabrese at the same time. I use successional sowing to overcome this problem and give a steady supply.
If the whole head is cut off at harvest the remaining stump is hollow and collects rain water. This sets up rot and can lead to the loss of the plant.
The solution is to cut each branch of the head separately. The thinner stumps aren't hollow and don't collect water.
Cropping early, along with peas and courgettes, calabrese gives some of the first of the welcome new season's vegetables. But remember, pigeons also like fresh young plants so be sure to provide good protection.
George Sutherland is a past president of the Federation of Edinburgh and District Allotments and Gardens Association. He has an organic allotment and a five-time holder of the Robin Harper Green Trophy for organic vegetables. www.fedaga.org.uk.