The plant is very cold hardy, down to 14 F (-10 C.) You start the plants in the late summer, let them overwinter, and in the spring they produce the heads and side-shoots. They grow up to 30 inches (75 cm) tall.
The heads, slim stalks and leaves are all edible. The stalks and leaves have more of a mustardy taste, and hold their own against stronger flavours. The stalks also taste a bit like asparagus.
It has more flavour than the Calabrese variety that is most common today in North American and UK supermarkets. All parts of the plant have a slightly bitter edge to them, making this more of a vegetable for grown-up tastes.
It is very popular in Italian cooking.
45% of the Purple Sprouting Broccoli in England is grown in Lincolnshire.
Trim away any bigger outer leaves.
Purple Sprouting Broccoli was actually grown long before the development of the Calabrese variety of broccoli. In the 1600s, it was even grown as an ornamental plant in gardens.
British foodies encountered a shortage of Purple Sprouting Broccoli in early 2011 when severe cold snaps, down to -18C (0F) wiped out most of the winter crops.
Wallop, Harry. Purple broccoli shortage. London: Daily Telegraph. 16 February 2011.