Broccoli translates as “little sprouts” in Italian, but thankfully their seeds don’t produce the unpopular ball-shaped veggies.
Depending on how they’re grown, the versatile broccoli sprout seed can produce baby shoots for immediate use in salads and stir-fry or can be sown in the garden to produce fully matured florets.
In fact, there are 3 different ways of enjoying this gorgeous veggie! To help you learn how, I’ve recommended the best varieties, where to find them, and guidelines on how to grow (and care for) broccoli sprouts.
Broccoli Sprouts at a Glance
Popular Broccoli Sprout Varieties
Sprouting broccoli differs from regular broccoli in that it grows on taller, leafy stalks and produces multiple florets instead of a single tree-like head on a thick stalk – the result is something closer to asparagus.
Among these broccoli sprout varieties are heirlooms (carefully cultivated from generation to generation due to their unique characteristics) and super-green hybrids, such as ‘Apollo’ (crossing broccoli with Chinese Kale).
The following varieties are cold hardy and tolerant of soil-borne diseases but possess different coloring, flavor, height, and floret shaping:
- ‘Early Purple’ – Heirloom; lavender florets; sweet, earthy flavor; harvest: 65 days; height: 2.9 feet.
- ‘Apollo’ – Hybrid, green florets on leafy stems, slightly bitter taste, harvest: 60-90 days, height: 1.4 feet.
- ‘Romanesco’– Heirloom, clusters of bright-green spiraled florets, delicate flavor, harvest: 75 days, height: 3 feet.
- ‘Santee’– Bright-purple florets on light-green stems, sweet flavor, harvest: 70-80 days, height: 3.2 feet.
- ‘Rudolph’– Rich-purple florets on medium-large spears, earthy taste, harvest: 55-65 days, height: 2.9 feet.
- ‘Atlantis’ – Long, tender stems and dark-green leaves, mild taste, harvest: 60-70 days, height: 1.4 feet.
Best Places To Buy Broccoli Sprout Seeds
Broccoli Sprout Seed Planting & Germination
1. Fill Small Pots With Compost & Plant 2 Seeds Per Pot
Sow 2 seeds per hole, and backfill with compost – but don’t firm/tap the surface.
Water each pot thoroughly until moist, watering low to the soil to avoid disturbing the seeds from overhead sprinkling.
2. Place Pots in 70-75°F & Keep Compost Moist
Put the pots on a heat pad to increase soil temperatures to 70-75°F, and water as needed to keep the compost moist (not soggy). The seeds should germinate in 10-14 days.
3. Place Pots in a Well-Lit Position & Thin the Weakest Sprout
Once the seeds have sprouted, remove pots from the heat pad, and place them in a south-facing windowsill or beneath fluorescent grow lights for 14-16 hours a day. Maintain moist soil.
If both seeds sprout in each pot, pinch out the weakest one with your fingernails, leaving only one strong seedling per pot.
4. Harden Off Seedlings 7-10 Days Before Planting
Once seedlings measure 4-6 inches tall and have 2-4 leaves each, harden them off in cooler temperatures by placing the pots in an outdoor cold frame or crate for a couple of hours a day.
Do this for 7-10 days before transplanting them outside.
5. Transplant Seedlings 2 Weeks Before Last Frost Date
No sooner than 2 weeks before the last frost date, choose a full-sun position of your garden and prepare a fertile, well-draining soil bed.
Dig several holes 1-2 inches deeper than the pots but no wider than each seedling’s root ball – leaving 18-24 inches of space between each hole and 2½ feet between each row.
Plant each seedling and backfill with soil. Water well, keeping the soil moist, and add mulch to cool the roots and preserve moisture.
Use support stakes to provide wind protection to tall varieties.
Growing Quick-Harvest Broccoli Sprouts
- Soak 2 tablespoons of organic sprouting seeds in a bowl of water for 8-12 hours, placing the bowl in a cool, dark area like a food pantry/cupboard.
- Rinse the seeds and place them in a sprouting mason jar. Place the mesh strainer lid on top and place the jar in a dark pantry for the next 48 hours, positioning the jar upside down at an angle (in a bowl) so the lid faces downwards. Rinse and drain the seeds lid 3 times a day during this period.
- After 2 days, sprouts should emerge from the seeds. Repeat rinsing/draining them until the shoots reach an inch long.
- Once the sprouts are long enough, place the jar in indirect sunlight for 12 hours to help the shoots develop a green shade. Once green, place the sprouts on some paper towel to dry for an hour or so.
- Once dry, store your broccoli sprouts in a clean mason jar/container with a closed lid in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Growing Broccoli Microgreens
- Fill a germination tray with organic potting soil within an inch of the rim.
- Scatter a handful of organic microgreen seeds closely together in the soil – don’t worry about crowding as they don’t need much room to grow.
- Cover the seeds back over with a thin layer of soil, and water the tray until moist.
- Place the tray in a south-facing windowsill or under a tabletop grow light, and maintain a moist medium.
- After 10-14 days, you should have something resembling cress – a clustered set of bright-green leaves growing from cream-colored shoots measuring 2-3 inches tall.
- Using sharp nail scissors or micro-tip pruners, gently snip the shoots at soil level, rinse them under cool water, and store them in a sealable bag in the refrigerator where they’ll stay fresh for 4-5 days.
4 Tips for Growing Broccoli Sprouts From Seed
- Wash your hands/glassware before growing sprouts in jars as any bacteria may contaminate the seeds.
- When using fluorescent grow lights, place the germinating seeds no more than a few inches below the light to prevent stretching “leggy” stems.
- Don’t use old seeds – unless stored in a dry place, old seed packets may have been exposed to temperature extremes, causing them to rot.
- Record your progress as you go for future reference, i.e., germination rates, lighting/temperature used, etc.
Growing & Caring for Broccoli Sprouts
So you’ve mastered how to turn your broccoli seeds into young seedlings and have planted them outdoors to await some proper sprouting broccoli plants.
But the work isn’t over just yet – you need to make sure your garden environment is ideal for producing mature tasty florets!
Sprouting broccoli needs well-draining, organic-rich soil that’s slightly alkaline, so add plenty of compost to your native soil (or add some lime if you have acidic soil).
You’ll also want to add mulch around the roots for moisture retention and provide a slow release of nutrients.
As cold-weather plants, broccoli can tolerate partial shade but full sun is best, so ensure your garden planting site receives between 6-8 hours of sunshine per day.
Watering & Fertilizing
Watering at soil level every 2 days should be fine, but increase this to twice daily during especially hot periods.
The soil must remain moist but not waterlogged or dry as water stress leads to bitter flavor, so check the bed regularly with your finger.
Three weeks after transplanting to the garden, start applying a low-nitrogen fertilizer (this organic plant food is fantastic!) around the stems, but never on the foliage.
Once the florets achieve their rich green/purple coloring but before the leaves turn yellow, cut 6-inch long shoots using sterile pruning shears.
Sprouting broccoli will keep producing new shoots as you harvest them, so you may start harvesting in February and continue until May!
Broccoli Sprout Common Questions:
Are Broccoli Sprout Seeds the Same as Broccoli Seeds?
Yes, in botanical terms, regular broccoli seeds and broccoli sprouting seeds are the same. The names “sprouting” or “microgreen” simply refers to the growing method they are most suited to.
Growing garden broccoli using sprouting seed is possible but more time-consuming than using regular broccoli seeds.
How Long Does It Take To Grow Broccoli Sprouts?
Growing broccoli sprouting seeds in water for use in salads will take about 3-5 days.
However, sprouting broccoli seeds that have germinated indoors before being transplanted outside can take roughly 3-4 months to mature, depending on the variety.
Can You Replant Broccoli Sprouts?
Yes, young broccoli sprouts grown in soil indoors can be transplanted from their container pots into garden soil where they will eventually mature into full broccoli plants.
Take care when transplanting seedlings into soil beds by gently turning the pot upside down and cradling the stem to avoid disturbing the roots.