Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) makes an excellent addition to the edible home garden -- this cool-season veggie thrives in diverse climates, enjoys soil and weather conditions commonly found across the U.S. and has plenty of uses in the kitchen. You have numerous options when it comes to this vitamin-rich annual veggie, including "Happy Rich" (Brassica oleracea “Happy Rich”) and "Purple Peacock" (Brassica oleracea “Purple Peacock”) broccoli, two broccoli-kale hybrids that have a host of differences, despite sharing the same family.
Miniature-sized crowns -- about 2 inches across -- and flowing, spindly stems define "Happy Rich" broccoli, which feature large, chunky florets. These plants have a dark green coloration, a sharp contrast to the deep purple of "Purple Peacock's" stems and the fuchsia veins of its gray-green leaves. "Peacock's" light violet crowns are larger than "Rich's," growing up to 6 inches wide, but its florets grow less densely. Both plants feature thick, broad kale-like leaves that surround their central stems, although "Happy Rich" leaves have smooth edges and "Purple Peacock's" grow in a serrated fashion.
2. Planting and Conditions
Both "Happy Rich" and "Purple Peacock" plants require the same planting conditions. They tolerate soils with a pH range of about 6.0 to 6.8 and prefer row spacing of 18 to 36 inches. They thrive in sandy soils and flourish under full sunlight exposure. Plant these hybrids out in early spring if transplanting seedlings, or start seeds in mid- to late summer. Start seeds in autumn if you live in a warm region.
3. Growth Habits
"Purple Peacock" broccoli takes a bit more time to reach maturity than its "Happy Rich" cousin, at roughly 55 days for the latter and 70 days for the former. Once the crowns appear, each plant can produce for a couple of months. Likewise, mature plants of each variety reach maximum heights of about 30 inches. After cutting the main head, "Happy Rich" and "Purple Peacock" both continue to produce numerous side shoots.
4. Taste and Usage
Because they each feature large, leafy foliage, both "Happy Rich" and "Purple Peacock" broccoli are used more like kale than regular broccoli in the kitchen. Their leaves and small crowns lend themselves to steaming, boiling or eating raw, and they work in side salads, soups and stews or as a bed of greens. Both plants have a sweet taste, although the leaves of the "Purple Peacock" offer more tenderness, especially when young.