Why should you even have broccoli? Why not! It is a super-food! It is an excellent source of K and C Vitamins, folic acid, potassium, and fiber. Vitamin C is necessary for our well being. It builds collagen, which is crucial for forming body tissue and bone, healing cuts, and, as an antioxidant, protects our bodies from free radicals.
Growing Broccoli Indoors
For a long time, I was not aware that broccoli could be grown indoors! Then, I met a person who taught me, “how to grow broccoli indoors” and it was of great help. Soon, I was able to set up my little broccoli garden! Container gardening is not as difficult as you may think. It is a great way to get fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables throughout the season. You need to plan well. Let me share the necessary steps and other requirements for growing broccoli indoors.
1. What Do You Need?
There are a few things that you need for growing broccoli indoors:
Containers: you need an enormous container for growing broccoli. It should be around 3 gallons. This is because broccoli is a large and heavier feeding vegetable crop.
Soil: broccoli is a heavy feeder and good, nutritious potting soil. Organic potting soil with added nutritious compost is the best. Soil should also be light, airy, and able to drain well.
Fertilizer: if you start with nutritious potting soil then, you don’t need to fertilize too much. Once or twice during the full life cycle is more than enough. It is better to use a completely organic fertilizer with added micro-nutrients like magnesium and boron.
Sunlight: though it is a large vegetable crop, it does not need direct sunlight as much as other large plants. It tolerates shade to quite an extent. It can thrive well with about 8 hours of sunlight.
Temperature: broccoli needs temperature lower than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is more than this, you will notice flowering. When broccoli flowers, then it is not possible to harvest the produce.
2. How To Grow Broccoli Indoors?
There are two ways to start growing broccoli. One is by starting with a seed, and the other is by starting with a transplant.
Growing From a Seed
When you start with a seed, you have more control over plant quality. You can choose the variety and germinating conditions. It is best to go for fast-maturing types like Atlantic or De Cicco. This way, you will be able to harvest a full-size broccoli head in just about 50 to 60 days.
- The right time to start germinating your seeds is about 5 weeks before the last frost in your area. You will grow the seedlings indoors only for a short period.
- Fill a seedling cup with potting soil. Plant two seeds per container at a depth of about 1/2 inch. Cover with soil and water lightly. Keep the pot in a warm area and make sure the soil is moist.
- It will take between 5 and 10 days for seeds to germinate. Now, you can move the pot to a well-lit area. Though there are two seeds, you want only one plant. Take out the smaller of the two.
- For the next 3 to 4 weeks, keep the pot in plenty of light and soil moist.
After 3 to 4 weeks, you can remove the plants and plant them in their container. Now you can place the container in an outside area like a balcony or patio. Slowly increase this time. Sunlight and fresh air are extremely good for all plants.
- Take each broccoli plant and transplant from its pot to the 3-gallon containers.
- Begin placing these containers in an open area if possible for a short time every day. Start with an hour or two and slowly increase the time.
- Within a few weeks, you can even leave the plant out for the full day. Bring them in if there is a dip in the temperature.
- If you don’t have a balcony or patio or any other open space, then try and place it near a window where you may get some direct sunlight during the day. You can use artificial light to make sure the plant grows well.
3. Caring for the Plant
Once you have transplanted broccoli to their containers, there is not much that you need to do. Just take of regular watering and fertilizing.
Broccoli grows well when the soil is moist. Overwatering is harmful as it can cause root problems like rot. Remember, the container is large, so that it will retain moisture well. You need to water every two days and keep a tight watch on the moistness.
As we mentioned earlier, fertilizing is not very necessary if you start with nutritious potting soil. The best time to fertilize is one week after transplanting broccoli to its container. This will be good for roots and help in growing a healthy and strong plant.
If you have followed everything correctly and followed the timeline, your broccoli plants will be ready for harvest about 2 months from the seeding time. The best part is that broccoli can be harvested many times before it starts to flower.
The first harvest is the main head of the plant. If it has grown well, container-grown broccoli can be anywhere between 3 to 5 inches in diameter. It will look healthy and should be dark green. There will be no sign of flowering. When you are ready to harvest, use a sharp knife and cut in one swift motion. You should cut about 5 inches below the head.
Once the main head is harvested, and no flowering has taken place, then you will notice that the plant will grow several side shoots. These are the baby heads of broccoli. Use the same method to harvest these. Usually, you will be able to harvest the side heads for a couple of weeks after the harvesting of the main head. You can fertilize after the main head is cut for faster side heads growth.
Benefits of Broccoli
This vegetable is a powerhouse of nutrients! It is beneficial for our health in so many ways and let us take a look at some of them:
Diabetes: scientists have reported that a compound called ‘sulforaphane,’ which is present in broccoli, can turn down the activity of 50 genes, which are associated with the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
Autism: the same compound ‘sulforaphane’ can improve symptoms related to autism. Some autistic people showed improvement in verbal communication and social interaction.
Cancer: this benefit of broccoli is quite well known. Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, and all vegetables in this group can protect and prevent stomach and intestinal cancers. It may also affect estrogen levels and reduce breast cancer risks.
Cholesterol: broccoli can help lower the cholesterol because its soluble fiber can bind with the blood cholesterol. This makes it easier to excrete and lessen the levels in the body.
Detoxification: compounds like gluconasturtiin and glucobrassicin in broccoli help in the detoxification process of our body. They can help in neutralizing and eliminating contaminants.
Heart: it helps with lowering the cholesterol and also keeps the blood vessels strong. It also has B-complex vitamins, which help in regulating and reducing excessive homocysteine. This is an amino acid that can increase the risk of coronary artery disease.
Eye: we all know that carrots are good for our eyes, and that is because of the compound ‘lutein.’ It is excellent for eye health, and broccoli is also a great source. Another antioxidant ‘zeaxanthin’ is also beneficial for eyes. They prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.
Digestion: broccoli contains a lot of fiber. It has nearly 1 gm of fiber for every 10 calories. Fiber is necessary for regulating your digestion and maintaining healthy bacteria levels in the intestines. Broccoli sprouts are especially beneficial in keeping the stomach lining healthy.
Anti-inflammatory: broccoli has anti-inflammatory properties and can slow down the damage to joints due to arthritis. It can block the enzymes which cause damage to the joints. Omega 3 fatty acids in broccoli also help to control inflammation.
Is It All Good?
For the most part, broccoli is safe to eat and is mostly beneficial. Some side effects are not serious. The most common ones are gas and irregular bowels or bowel irritation, which is caused mainly by the high fiber content in broccoli. People who take blood-thinning medicines should be careful as the vitamin K may act upon the medication. People with hypothyroidism should also be cautious with the amount of broccoli they take.
However, the benefits of broccoli far outweigh the adverse results. You must include it in your daily nutrition intake and make it a part of your regular food.
What Is the Best Way to Consume?
The way you prepare any food can affect its nutritious value. Broccoli is the same. You can have it raw, steamed, or cooked. If you are looking for anti-cancer benefits, then you should not coo it for long. Boiling it too long can diminish the effects of cancer-fighting enzymes.
Steaming for about 15 minutes or blitzing in the microwave for 3 to 4 minutes is alright, and there is generally no loss of nutrients. You can even stir-fry for a few minutes for a tastier dish. Raw broccoli is the best at retaining all nutrients, but it could cause bowel problems. Try all the methods and see what suits you and your digestive system the most.
5 Ways to Cook Broccoli
1. Blanching: bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt. Add the broccoli florets and cook until crisp-tender or for about 2 minutes. Remove and immediately plunge in ice water. You can use these in vegetable platters, cold salads, etc.
2. Steaming in Microwave: place the florets in a microwave dish and pour some water on top. Cook on high for about 4 minutes. Check for tenderness. You can use these as a side dish with olive oil and seasonings.
3. Steaming on Stove: boil water in a pot and insert a steamer basket over the top. Put the florets in it and simmer for about 5 minutes or until tender.
4. Sautéing: broccoli should be completely dry. In a pan, heat some oil and add the florets with a pinch of salt. Toss well. Continue until it is slightly tender. You can use other sautéed vegetables.
5. Roasting: preheat the oven. Spread broccoli on a foil-lined baking tray with some oil. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes. Check for crunchiness. You can use these as pizza toppings, salad ingredients, etc.
Some Interesting Facts about Broccoli
- Broccoli developed from wild cabbage and originated in Italy about the sixth century B.C.
- It came to France in 1560. It came to England only in the 1700s and was called Italian Asparagus.
- Thomas Jefferson imported broccoli seeds from Italy and planted them at his home.
- Barack Obama announced that broccoli was his favorite food.
- California produces almost 90 percent of the broccoli grown in the United States.
- Tom Landers holds World record for eating broccoli. He ate a full pound of broccoli in just 90 seconds!
Broccoli is not like any other regular vegetable! It is like a gift from nature. If you can grow it indoors regularly, it is excellent for your health. Give it a try! Grow and eat fresh broccoli and say hello to good health!