Purple prose for broccoli

Brassica-ed off With winter having taken its toll on vegatable farmers, David Overend looks at the benefits of growing your own.

With the announcement from the National Farmers Union that brassica crops across the country have been devastated by severe winter weather, the seed company is gearing up for a surge in sales.

December and January’s snow and ice have decimated crops such as purple sprouting broccoli, with growers and farmers predicting major shortages in the coming year.

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The National Famers Union has said that some crops have been completely devastated by the weather, and warned that consumers will struggle to find the vegetable and will have to face rising costs for it this year.

Such is the popularity of purple sprouting broccoli – thanks to its incredible nutritional qualities – that its fans are expected to get back to basics and start growing their own.

“Purple sprouting broccoli is such a ‘superfood’ that many people will be sorely disappointed at the news of this shortage,” said Thompson & Morgan’s Paul Hansord.

“But savvy shoppers will use this to their advantage and have a go at growing their own – ensuring their families don’t have to go without, and saving an enormous amount of money at the same time.

“Broccoli is an easy vegetable to grow and by choosing the right varieties you can ensure you have crops all year round.

“We are expecting an increase in seed sales over the coming weeks and will be gearing up to ensure we have plenty of stocks to keep customers happy.”

Since it won a reputation as a ‘superfood’, purple sprouting broccoli has become a staple of many shopping lists, thanks to its high levels of iron, folic acid, calcium, fibre and vitamins A and C.

But with prices set to rocket as supermarkets struggle to secure stocks, fans of growing their own vegetables can be happily tucking in for just a fraction of the cost.

Lovers of broccoli could be enjoying a home-grown crop this summer, thanks to the ‘Summer Purple’ variety, which has been bred for the British climate. It also produces huge crops of the tasty spears, meaning shoppers could save a fortune on their food bills by avoiding costly imports at the supermarket.

For virtually all-year-round production, sow ‘Summer Purple’ from early March in modules or small pots of seed compost on the windowsill, and then sow every three weeks until early May and harvest from June to November.

Seedlings take six weeks to produce sturdy plants to transplant to the garden in free-draining soil.

Protect them from overnight frosts until late May or the beginning of June, and, in windy areas, stake plants or earth up the stems to prevent strong winds tearing them from the ground.