Nine star broccoli

Apr 25, 2023

Despite growing perhaps as great a variety of food as anyone in this country - everything from pecans to almonds, Chilean guava to autumn olive, asparagus peas to Vietnamese coriander - I have never eaten nine star broccoli until this year.

I’ve grown it before but either the pigeons snacked (I hate netting vegetables), the weather conspired, or I moved home before it produced. This year, all obstacles vanished; even the pigeons ate only the tips of the leaves, which they are just about welcome to.

As you'll see in the film, 9 star broccoli is quite similar in looks to sprouting broccoli, with what appear to be mini-cauliflowers at the tips: the flavour is an almost perfect mix of the best nutty cauliflower mixed with sprouting broccoli’s bright sweet brassica-iness. The texture is really pleasing too; quite like tenderstem. A swift simmering or steaming and the light attention of salt, lemon juice and good olive oil is all it requires.

Why the name? When it was developed (brassicas cross fairly easily) around 120 years ago, it seems the typical number of mini-cauliflowers it gave was 9. This one has already given me way more than that.

Why is it not wildly common? It produces relatively little seed, and that scarcity means it tends to be stocked by the smaller nurseries only.

I almost never grow cauliflower - it occupies space for most of a year to produce just one meal, and tastes only marginally better than those you can get from a good greengrocer - but with 9 star broccoli, the more you cut, the more it produces, it’s perennial so it lasts for years, and you can’t buy it in the shops.

So, if you like unbuyable flavours and are keen to grow one of the best, you can get seed here.