Monday, October 14, 2013

Sweeter with Frost - Broccoli

Broccoli is one of those garden crops that get sweeter with frost. In honor of our first frost yesterday I'm going to do a series of articles on frost hardy vegetables. Broccoli can tolerate temperatures down to 26 degrees for a brief period of time. We often harvest broccoli until Thanksgiving here in Rochester, Minnesota.
But why is it sweeter. Broccoli increases it's sugar content after a few light frosts as a protection mechanism against freezing. It is good it does because sweet fall broccoli is some of the best of the season.

We plant the last fall broccoli until approximately the middle to end of August. The normal 45 day maturity is stretched to 75 days when the days get shorter and cooler.

One of the side benefits of the freezing temperatures is the insect pressure goes away. I have some broccoli that is in full production and some that won't be ready for at least a month. Also, one of the full season varieties has great side shoot production. The side shoots can be as large as a full head of broccoli. We planted 6 different varieties this year. The best fall broccoli is a variety called Marathon. Large heads, small bead and very frost hardy.

I'm going to publish a series of posts highlighting the other frost hardy crops and ones where the produce becomes sweeter. There are quite a few and the mechanism for sweetness varies a bit.

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