How to grow calabrese

Named after the Italian region of Calabria, Calabrese is part of the brassica family and a variety of broccoli that produces long green shoots with dense small flowers.

It has a spicy taste and can be eaten raw or cooked, as well as used in soups and salads.

It can reach a height of 60cm (2ft) and produces bluish-green heads up to 15cm (6in) in diameter that is best harvested in the summer or autumn, depending on when they’re planted.

Calabrese is a cool-weather crop, so it’s important to know when to plant calabrese in order to get the best results.

In this article, we will tell you all there is to know about how to grow calabrese.

broccoli heads

Table of Contents

Recommended Varieties

Green Magic AGM

A reliable and sturdy calabrese, this variety is highly productive and disease-resistant, especially to white rust. It produces its big, generous heads early in the season, particularly from sowings made under glass in the spring. Once the main head is cut off, it creates a second harvest of smaller, deliciously delicate side shoots from the stem.

Kabuki AGM

The heavily branched, erect habit of this fast-maturing cultivar makes it valuable for forcing. It matures to half the height of typical varieties and can be planted as late as the third week in July, with tight domed heads that may be finished under fleece if required.

Marathon AGM

One of the most consistent and long-cropping summer broccolis. Consumers like the high quality of its delicious heads, as well as its success in nearly all soils and resilience to disease. It is possible to cut the heads from June through late fall without fail. An excellent overall performer!

Monaco AGM

A semi-evergreen perennial grown as an annual vegetable for its tasty thick stems and big compact flower buds. This F1 hybrid calabrese has medium-sized heads that are ready to pick from the middle of summer onwards, depending on the temperature and date of sowing.


A well domed, tough headed, green Calabrese. It has a wonderful taste and may be sown in sequence from April to June. It will continue to produce side shoots after the main head is cut. Because this delicious type matures slowly, it can be planted in succession for a harvest from late summer through the fall. Height: 45cm (18”). Spread: 40cm (16”).


A large-headed variety that produces domed heads. It has a good heat tolerance, making it ideal for the summer months. Fiesta is excellent for preserving. During late summer and fall, when the main head is harvested, numerous smaller secondary side shoots to develop. Height: 45cm (18”). Width: 40cm (16”).

Sakura Speedy

It’s a fast-maturing early variety that may be eaten after 6-12 weeks. It’s a great dome type and an excellent “baby” vegetable, sweet and healthy, ideal for growing in containers and on the patio. For harvesting between mid-July and September, it can be planted as soon as February onwards.


Brassica crops are best grown in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun or very light shade. To prevent the formation of soil-borne illnesses, avoid growing brassicas in the same soil year after year.

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Indoors – February through April is a good time to start calabrese seeds indoors or in a greenhouse. Sow two seeds per module in a modular tray filled with seed compost. Thin the seedlings to one per module as soon after they are large enough to be handled as feasible. Every week, give them a general-purpose liquid fertilizer.

Outdoors – From April, sow in the ground where the crop is to grow. Choose a sunny or very lightly shaded spot, with fertile, well-drained soil. Every 30cm (1ft) along the row, sow three seeds, 2cm (¾in) deep. Thin young calabrese plants to leave just one healthy seedling every 30cm (1ft) when the seedlings are big enough to handle. Cover the plants with fleece to protect them from cabbage root fly; remove it in May when the likelihood of damage lowers.

Watering and Feeding

It’s all about maximizing leaf surface area while young, providing a robust root system to avoid root congestion, and watering and feeding on a regular basis.

Keep the soil wet, especially during periods of drought. A garden compost mulch is also beneficial since it keeps the ground cool and moist as the weather warms up. nutrient-starved soils tend to produce smaller calabrese heads. Feed your plants on a regular basis with a high-nitrogen liquid fertilizer or chicken feedings when planting.


Calabrese is a hardy perennial with multiple uses. From a single plant, it will provide you with two harvests. The main domed area will first form. This should be taken before the beads begin to loosen. The plant will then produce secondary small side stems that may also be picked for the second crop of delectable spears.

Cooking calabrese

Steam rather than boil to better retain flavour and vitamins. Small spears are great thrown into a stir fry, while the thick stalks work well in soups.

Common Problems & Remedies

Here are some common problems that you might need to face while growing calabrese in your garden.

Birds – Pigeons can eat a wide range of crops, including seeds, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables. They are also known to eat birdseed and plantains.

Cover the plants with netting or fleece to keep birds off them. Scarecrows and bird-scaring mechanisms are useful for a time, but the best approach to keep birds away is to use horticultural fleece or mesh.

Slugs and snails can do a lot of harm to your young calabrese plants. Place a ring of crushed oyster shell around the plant’s base – slugs and snails avoid crossing it.

Pests – Susceptible to cabbage root fly, cabbage caterpillars, cabbage whitefly and mealy cabbage aphid

See our guide to fixing common garden pest problems

Diseases – Susceptible to blackleg, downy mildew, powdery mildews, and clubroot particularly in acidic soil

Health Benefits of Calabrese

Broccoli is a “superfood” that has been shown to help prevent bowel cancer, which is one of the most prevalent malignancies in the United Kingdom today. Broccoli contains a chemical known as sulforaphane, which has been suggested to aid combat colon cancer by binding and eliminating carcinogenic chemicals found in our stomachs.

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