The darker sides of broccoli…

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…and cauliflower:  all vitamins, no integrity

I’ve had two frustrating-as-hell efforts with these ingrate vegetables and I’m going to spill the beans (sorry to suddenly switch plants on you like that) about their consistently miserable behavior.

[This post is rated WO: Watch Out, could be disturbing to some gardeners.]


Last fall I tried a “winter garden.” I started cute cauliflower and broccoli plants in late summer, EXACTLY on schedule, and planted them in a gorgeously enriched and perfectly fluffed raised bed. (Everything but a chocolate mint on the pillow.)

Elizabeth eating alfalfa

These plants grew some, and fell over, but never at any time was there any part of any plant to eat unless you are a sheep and eat leaves, and in this case the leaves were largely holes because the slugs or something got there first.  (Elizabeth, above, would have preferred alfalfa.)


“My goodness you are patient,” you will say of me now, or possibly “My God you are hopeless,” because I started more cauliflower and broccoli this spring.  They were planted out, again, as big healthy plants.

Then surprise!  Bits that look like the sort of cauliflower and broccoli parts that humans can eat began to appear deep in the centers of these plants, bits that might become massive edible clumps. I was so excited. I took a picture.

cauliflower part human might eat

And I made Mr. O come out and admire the beginnings of The Great Crop. We were both happy. I had planted six cauliflowers (Mr. O loves cauliflower) and three broccoli (not so much love there).

I had also planted six new spring cabbages.


Cabbage success. And each cabbage makes about three huge coleslaw type salads, or can be mixed with lettuce for General Saladness. (I do not cook cabbage. Why would anyone cook cabbage?)

Cabbage keeps for weeks and months in the refrigerator.
In short, six cabbage = lots of eating.

And now to contrast, here is the teeny tiny cauliflower and broccoli just before I harvested it last week:

cauliflower & broccoli

(Size is important.)

I cut it. All of it. At one time. And we had a vegetable and chicken stir-fry and used very nearly the entire harvest.  So, to recap, two people got what could be graphed as 1.5 meals from nine huge plants.

broccoli emotion

And I learned that it’s hard to enjoy food that you are mad at.

Now, there is talk, in the books, about Side Shoots.
(Sounds like a competition involving hand-guns.)

side shoots

Okay there are a few Side Shoots coming. (Credit them another.5 meal.)


After years of one-dinner wonders finally this spring (while, coincidentally, I was looking for the shovel) the asparagus grew… some asparagus.


We had a more than one cute asparagus bunch like this. And it comes back, year after year, more and more.

Martha-note:  I like to blanch asparagus.  (That doesn’t mean “to frighten” like you might think. It means to steam  or boil a little then chill.) Then I take the lightly cooked (and possibly frightened) asparagus and chop it into yummy salads.

So vegetables can be educated, but not ones that thumb their stems at you then selfishly die off without so much as an apology and just go away to plant heaven to maybe be reincarnated as thistles or poison oak or something worse.

poison oak

Poison oak, with a cauliflower soul.


As I sit here, pondering all of these dark issues and considering just how much I prefer growing say, hollyhocks, I see that I should have suspected how it would all end with those vegetables, most especially the broccoli.

What kind of plant would evolve a name like broccoli anyway?

It’s impossible to spell, and if I spelled it right at all here it’s because I looked it up in the online dictionary four times.  Why does it need ANY double letters anyway, and why in heaven’s name is it so impossible for me to remember WHICH LETTERS to double?

And how about that “co’-li” part? Broc-co’li. What does that remind you of? (It’s really quite a bad idea for me to sit quietly and think especially when I’m mad.)


garlic rust

Ack! I just observed that something is growing ON the garlic!  It looks like little freckles of rust…

WTF??  (That stands for “What Think Farmers?”)

I don’t suppose this has anything to do with the monsoon summer…

I need a beer.


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
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27 Responses to The darker sides of broccoli…

  1. Cathy says:

    This post should not have been rated WO. It should have been rated IA (Incontinence Alert). OMG, I giggled and laughed until…. well, now I need to go and “freshen up”.

  2. Grace says:

    I know, I know. Been there, done that. I’ve had so much frustration with growing vegetables that I finally gave up and decided to support my local farmers’ markets. Some [naive] people ask me things like, “what kind of a gardener are you?” But your post reminds me why I finally conceded to my inabilities and will leave some things in the hands of the professionals. Great post!

  3. Trial and tribulation, life of a gardener. At least you got something to eat and the slugs shared.

    • linniew says:

      Yes I guess it all builds character or something. And the broccoli WAS really good, better than from the grocery store. But it would take acres to grow much!

  4. Linnie – enjoyed the laughter here though empathise with the cruciying challenges of cultivating the crucifereous. Self-sufficiency is not as easy as popping seeds into a pot and garden presenters have a lot to answer for in making it seem so. Cheers to beer

  5. b-a-g says:

    I have broccoli issues too… it might be pigeons eating your broccoli, slugs aren’t always to blame !
    I have a broccoli “tree” growing in my garden at the moment, never produced a head, but it’s the healthiest plant I’ve got.

    • linniew says:

      Maybe it’s just that some broccoli aspires to be something else, like a shrub of some sort, maybe a hedge. The world might need crucifereous psychologists.

  6. amanda says:

    Ha ha….that’s hilarious. I can certainly empathise. I grew squash last year…..16 plants all-in-all….and the amount of foliage was so big (and rather scary) as it started taking up the dining area on the decking area….like triffids. After all that I had two really measly fruits, that were about half the size of shop bought ones. I have no idea what I was doing wrong but I am leaving them alone this year.

    • linniew says:

      Good grief Amanda, glad you survived the deck-eating squash incident–
      And nice to hear from another gardening Trekkie. (Live long and prosper.)
      I usually get one pumpkin from a thirty-foot vine, but it wanders through the garden and not around my dining table.

  7. All the goings on in the garden can be stressful, but I love the reward. I laughed when you got mad at the veggies…I’ve done that…

  8. Sheila says:

    I like the photo of the sheep. I’ve tried to grow broccoli twice with no success, one in my garden and once at the garden where I volunteer. In my garden, it flowered after a month and never developed even the beginnings of a head. I banished it – if it doesn’t like my garden, I don’t like IT. If it wants something luxurious like, say, full sun, it can just go elsewhere.

    • linniew says:

      Yes Sheila, there comes a time we must take a stand against thoughtless vegetables. Well done. Regarding the sheep– she was a bottle lamb (no mother) and became so tame that we used to bring her in the house to watch the news with us after dinner. I was a hand-spinner back then. (No sheep now, just difficult vegetables and nice flowers.)

  9. Finally to meet, virtually anyway, someone who has the same spelling issues with broccoli–making a shopping list is a nightmare. I just go with growing what’s easy like tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce and leave the hard stuff to the organic farmers at the farmer’s market.

  10. Greggo says:

    BTW ranchers let cattle eat the rust off their winter wheat leaves so it doesn’t damage the plant. Sorry, thought it might help! lol

    • linniew says:

      Yes of course Greggo, I’ll just be letting a few head of cattle into my vegetable garden tomorrow and that will FIX EVERYTHING. (You big silly.)

  11. Dear Linnie, I do believe you are my favorite garden writer, because you make gardening such FUN! In future, whenever I am getting serious about gardening I will just think about eating frightened asparagus — When I read that part of your posting I had the same problem as Cathy. P. x

    • linniew says:

      Well Pam I’ve cured the spelling issue (brockoly) and Greggo has cured the garlic rust (cattle) so now we just have to save you and Cathy from giggles– Nah giggles are good for you! I have the best time writing this stuff and I love that it makes you laugh!

  12. Roberta says:

    I loved this post. It reminds me quite a bit of The Great Brussels Sprout Debacle of 2011 that is so recently etched into my memory. I felt like I was growing a crop for Barbie and that ne’r do well Ken. They were TINY TINY sprouts. There were plenty but they only ever grew to the size of peas.

  13. linniew says:

    Oh yes, B.S. (my term of endearment for brussels sprouts.) They are either aphid conventions in the late summer or they are AWOL totally when I grew them as “winter garden” crops. Perfect that you grew some for Barbie, she might need them. So great to have you here Roberta, thanks hugely for coming by. I love your blog!

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