“I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. I’m president of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.”

George W. Bush 1990

There are many people who would have disagreed back then with George W., both politically and with what with tastes good.

Indeed, broccoli is a very popular — and nutritious — vegetable to grow in Jackson Hole because it is a vegetable that grows best in cool climates. I find this robust plant in many gardens in Jackson Hole.

If you are a gardener who chooses to grow your plants from seed then broccoli should be started indoors four to five weeks ahead of setting the transplants outside. If you haven’t started broccoli by now then it is probably too late for a crop this summer.

However, lots of folks buy those multipacks of broccoli starts at gardening centers.

If you do then don’t be tempted by plants that have already started forming tiny heads. They may have been growing in these small spaces for too long and have become “root bound.” The roots will have grown tightly round and round and possibly even stick out of holes in the bottom. The plants might have even produced a few little bitty heads. This is called “buttoning,” and means the plants are somewhat stunted and may never form large solid heads.

Broccoli growers must watch out for white butterflies flitting around. The caterpillars of this pretty butterfly are veritable brassica addicts, making their way through cabbage, broccoli, kale and cauliflower plants before they weave a cozy cocoon and miraculously transform into a butterfly.

Watch for the larvae — green worms — on the undersides of the leaves.

It’s happened more than once that I’ve been eating freshly picked broccoli and have found a small caterpillar or two clinging to the produce. In fact, I might have even swallowed some.

While certainly a nauseating thought — especially for queasy people of Western developed nations — the small icky worms are not toxic. Is it possible to think of them as just extra protein?

A good bath in salt water will kill the worms but cooks will have to swirl the harvested broccoli heads vigorously to dislodge them all. The little buggers twist themselves firmly among the florets. They can be harder to wash off than dirt.

Hand picking the worms when you spot them is the best way to organically get rid of them

When you eventually cut off the broccoli heads leave the stump and more broccoli heads (albeit much smaller) will grow. Gardeners can possibly get another round of delicious fresh broccoli with a little patience.

Gardening guru Marilyn Quinn shares her botanical expertise weekly during the summer. Contact her at columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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