Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Broccoli and butterflies

Photo of a small head of broccoli growing on a plant
Broccoli, July 2017
I've never tried to grow summer broccoli, also called calabrese, before.  I thought I'd give it a try this year.  I managed to get about six plants growing this spring (there were at least twice as many to begin with, but the slugs had them).  A couple started growing heads at the beginning of the month, and last week I harvested two of them.

One was too small but I had to pick it as it was about to flower.  It was about as big as a purple sprouting broccoli head:  about the size of a golf ball.  The second, shown above, was a much nice size.  We had it in a chicken stir fry, along with garden carrots and garden garlic.

Now, however, is the time of the dreaded cabbage white butterfly.  The seven year old has helped me inspect brassica leaves for eggs and caterpillars.  There are two types: the small and the large;  one lays single eggs which turn into relatively harmless green caterpillars.  The other lays a grid of eggs, around 20 or more, which grow into black and yellow striped caterpillars that wreak havoc!  If 20 different butterflies each lay a single egg, a broccoli plant can withstand that kind of damage.  However, 20 eggs each from 20 butterflies:  complete defoliation. 

Last year I diligently inspected each plant every single day for a month.  Then it was about three times a week for another month...I don't think I can keep up that standard of vigilance this year.  I'll try to look at the bigger plants every few days, and I'll keep an eye on the newly planted winter cabbages.  It's best to rub off eggs before they hatch, but I'm willing to be ruthless about caterpillars too.  I don't really have the stomach to kill actual butterflies--I don't have the patience to chase after them either.  I can only shake my fist and growl at them.

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