“Brassicas” or “cruciferous vegetables” refers to plants in the genus Brassica, which is the mustard group of plant types. It’s a big family, including Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Turnips, Collards, Kale, Bok choy and mustard to name a few.
Brassica vegetables are considered superfoods which provide high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, and soluble fibre, and contain glucosinolates. Studies suggest that brassica vegetables are protective against some types of cancers.
The cabbage tribe of brassicas below can provide a fresh staple food every day of the year as well as being easy to store and ferment or pickle for long term storage.
How to Grow Brassica Vegetables
Brassica like a slightly acidic to neutral soil. If your soil is acidic, add some lime (about one handful per square metre). Brassicas also need a rich, well-drained soil so prior to planting dig in plenty of compost and well-rotted manure. These are heavy feeders so incorporate some blood and bone, and a tight fistful of sulphate of potash per square metre.
Seeds can be sown directly in the soil, but for results, sow seeds in small pots first and plant out when 4 – 6 weeks old. The best temperature for seed germination is around 10-25°C.
Broccoli. For spring and winter use, sow first week in March and again three weeks later. Plant out to 2 ft. 6 in. apart each way.
Brussels Sprouts. Sow first week in March, and twice again at fortnightly intervals for succession. Plant in rows 2 ft. apart, leaving 1 ft. 6 in. between each plant. Frost improves the flavour and makes them tender,
Cabbages. Sow in early March for use in summer, in late April for use in autumn, and in August for use in spring Cabbages are an important crop, giving a good return when other green stuffs are scarce. Plantout 14 in. apart, in rows ft. 6 in. apart. Be careful not to dig between the plants, or they will bolt, that is, run to seed instead of hearting in. Keep the hoe going.
Cauliflowers. Sow in April and May for use in September and October. Plant out 2 ft. apart, each way.
Pickling Cabbages, Grow a row or two of these. Cultivate the same as cabbage but, when planting, allow 2 ft. each way. Those that remain after sales can be pickled and sold through-out the winter.
Savoys. Sow in April and plant as cabbages. Small or medium-sized hearts are the best for sale. They should not be gathered until they have been well frosted. They are especially popular during late autumn and winter when no other greens are available.
Brassica Growing Tips
- Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts will grow in subtropical regions, but must be planted in early autumn to benefit from a long cool season
- Brassica plants are easily damaged, so choose a spot with protection from strong wind
- Plant seedlings a little deeper, cover the lowest leaves to help stabilise the plants