6 Heirloom Brassica Varieties to Grow From Seed


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purple cabbage

Kalibos Cabbage, Photo by Rebecca Anne Cole

Spring is around the corner in my part of the world, and it’s time to start the brassica seeds indoors for my northeastern Maryland garden. When the term heirloom comes to mind, many people think of colorful plump tomatoes in funny shapes and sizes, but the term heirloom also applies to a host of other Old World garden vegetables, including the hardy brassica family.

Most brassica plants are started indoors when grown from seed, 4 to 6 weeks before they are to be planted out in the garden, which is usually a couple of weeks before the last frost date. Setting cabbage family transplants out as early as possible in the spring will help manage insect control by encouraging production before hungry bugs are out in full force. Seedlings are ready for transplant when they have 3 to 4 true leaves (leaves that are larger than initial sprouting leaves).

This year I am growing reliable heirloom brassica varieties that include Calabrese Green Sprouting and DiCicco broccoli, Early Jersey Wakefield, Kalibos and Nero Di Toscana cabbages, and Blue Curled Scotch kale.



Calabrese Green Sprouting broccoli was the first broccoli variety I attempted in my garden. According to Baker Creek Seed Company, Calabrese Green Sprouting is an Italian heirloom that was brought to the United States sometime in the 1800s. Almost all of my broccoli seeds germinated and later transplanted successfully to the garden. The plants produced main 6- to 8- inch heads, and there were plenty of side shoots to harvest after the main stems were snipped. I am allowing space for approximately 16 Calabrese Green Sprouting plants in the garden this year.