Written by Melanie Crownover
Photographed by Joe Worthem
Cameron Tate planted broccoli for the first time in his 5-acre garden in August, but he is confident he’ll have a healthy crop of the green vegetable this November.
“Even if I’ve never grown a crop at home before, I’ve dealt with it at work,” he said. “That helps me know what to expect before I put anything in the ground.”
Tate, a 34-year-old Plantersville, Miss., native, is a research technician at the MSU Extension Office and the area’s youngest master gardener.
He successfully transplanted 200 broccoli plants in late August after nurturing the seedlings in containers for six weeks.
The cruciferous plants go into rows when the stems are sturdy enough not to fall over. If kept in pots too long, Tate warns, roots can grow in circles and leave the plant root-bound.
He fertilizes with a handmade mix of phosphorous, nitrogen and phosphate, uses raised beds in full sun to allow for water drainage and irrigates with pond water at least every few days.
Insects can be an issue with broccoli. Tate deals with any minor infestations naturally with a weekly rotation of neem-oil to repel bugs, diatomaceous earth powder to “freeze” them and Safer Brand soap to wash the plants.
Frost is not a problem for this cold-weather crop, but harvest timing is everything.
“Broccoli has to have a nice head, but you have to catch it before it flowers. After that, it’s over,” Tate said. “You have to put that 110-day mark from planting on the calendar and keep watch or you’ll miss it when they’re the best.”
Tate will sell the majority of his crop when it comes in early next month. The leftover florets will come home to his supper table.
“My wife makes this great fried broccoli that I’m already ready for,” he said. “I really am counting the days until this crop comes in.”
Tate’s broccoli is available for purchase at the Tupelo Farmers’ Market.
Candi’s Crispy Broccoli
4 cups fresh broccoli, chopped
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1 teaspoon fajita seasoning
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1⁄2 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine broccoli and all other ingredients in large plastic zip-top bag. Shake until broccoli is covered. Arrange on aluminum foil-covered pan, and bake in oven 20-30 minutes or until crisp. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese before serving.
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