I love broccoli. Everyone on the farm has at least one crop they’re solely responsible for harvesting during any one season, and we tend to refer to the crop as that person’s alone – in the fall and spring they’re Dana’s beets, Mary’s chard, Davy’s turnips, Vicky’s leeks, Farmer John’s lettuces…and my broccoli.

I feel especially fortunate to have scored the broccoli gig in that not only do I harvest each successive crop once, but I get to do it twice. Other crops in the Brassica family aren’t so generous. Cauliflower and cabbages, for example, are finished producing as soon as we lop off their heads. Yet broccoli, wonderful broccoli, keeps going even after the initial cut. Once headless, the plants send up a series of side shoots in a last-ditch effort to flower and go to seed. It’s survival of the fittest in its purest form, I suppose, and broccoli takes its reproduction responsibilities to the extreme.

This is a row leftover from last fall. We allowed it to go to flower, but not for the purpose of replicating itself. It’s a hybrid variety, and though the resulting seed would indeed grow broccoli plants, they’d likely turn out kind of goofy. Our goal in this case isn’t to collect seed; we let these pretty little flowers bloom for the bees. Until the wildflowers get going in our valley (which always happens quite a bit later than most everywhere else) any crop that makes it to the flowering stage is a welcome treat for bees.

Recently, our old crop of dinosaur kale has done its best to help out…

…as have our blossoming pear trees.

Before our present crop of broccoli goes to flower too, I intend to venture through the rows one last time to harvest most of the tender side shoots.

Or is it proper to call them florets? I’ve never checked on the exact nomenclature. To cover all bases, I write “florets” on our market sign, but call them “side shoots” on the blog’s weekly produce list.

Here at the farm, however, I like to refer to them as side shoosts in deference to Eva Gabor. She played Oliver’s wife, remember, in Green Acres.

If you’re too young to have seen the show when it originally aired (sigh), perhaps you caught some of the repeats on cable. Whatever the case, for obvious reasons Farmer John and I were the butt of many Green Acres jokes when we were getting our farm started back in 1998. I can’t tell you how many times the show’s theme song got stuck in my head, and I’ll always remember Eva Gabor’s exaggerated accent. I don’t know if the word “shoots” was ever spoken in one of the episodes, but if so, I feel sure Eva would have pronounced it “shoosts.”

Sadly, we’ll not be getting any more side shoosts after this harvest. The broccoli we planted as our potential last crop of the spring has gone all haywire by sending up central heads well before the plants were able to grow to their desired size. On a recent visit to these rows, we discovered the disappointing news.

These plants are so tiny, they physically cannot make anything larger than shoosts, even as their main broccoli heads, before they begin to flower.

While our frustration level over this development is almost high enough to turn away and let the plants blossom, I’ll probably go through these rows and cut the teensy heads anyway. We’ll just mix them with the other side shoosts – the ones that truly are side shoosts – from the last crop and bag them all up together.

Describing them as such almost seems a little dishonest, but whatever the terminology, I know they’ll be delicious. A shoost is a shoost is a shoost, no matter whether it comes from the side of the plant, or the middle. I feel pretty sure Eva would have agreed.

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Here’s what we’ll be bringing to the farm stand this Wednesday, RAIN or SHINE:

Bags of broccoli side shoosts (of course, dahling!); the first of the carrots; lots of spinach; beautiful head lettuces – butterhead, romaine, green leaf and red leaf; lettuce mix; lettuce/chicory salad mix; pink and purple radishes; bags of arugula; the last of this crop of leeks (more coming soon); green onions; green garlic; bunches of chard; Brussels greens; Dinosaur kale; bunches of mixed Asian greens; cilantro; escarole; and a few pints of Brussels sprouts.

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm