They call it the "hard-hearted".
As they know the gluttons who are waiting impatiently from one year to another to accompany him with the classic boiled eggs and new extra-virgin oil, the Broccoletto of Custoza becomes better if it suffers frost. When the temperatures go under zero, he becomes tender and sweet. With frost, the heart that it hides inside becomes slightly larger than a button.
In order to organize it a party, every year in January thousands of people come to Custoza where the Pro Loco and the restaurateurs of the territory of Custoza give evidence to this delicious vegetable. The Pro Loco proposes the classics: boiled eggs, salami, a piece of cheese and boiled broccoletti; the restaurateurs elaborate local recipes with imagination and creativity.
Both restaurant owners and individuals go and buy the broccoletti directly in the field of the producer, increasing a tradition that continues for more than a century. In addition, the broccoletti have a good literature. Cesare Marchi, that when the Custoza wine became Doc, shouted "Finally a win!" and celebrated the broccoletti in his "When we were poor people."
"Once, with the mare and the wagon, we went and sell the broccoletti from house to house to Rosegaferro, Quaderni and Malavicina," says a 80-year-old farmer who has been cultivating the broccoletti for 50 years. "Now Custoza has become a goal to be put on the agenda at the beginning of the year. People of Mantua, Verona, Brescia and Desenzano comes after trying them at home with friends and realized their special flavor.
The beneficial properties of this vegetable are also recognized by doctors: it is richer than other vegetables of the same family in terms of vitamins and minerals, thanks not only to the careful selection of seed, derived from inflorescences of the previous year, but also to the land, which is rich of clay."
The broccoletti of Custoza belong to the Brassicaceae family, better known as the classic Cruciferae. The harvest begins with the beginning of December, with the first frosts, so that the most sweet and tasty are the ones which grew in the grip of frost, have a long life cycle, about 6 months, necessary to achieve maturation and enjoy them in a proper way.
Despite the increases in the planting, their production is still limited, both for the growing demand, and because the vegetable is celebrated, during the month of January, with a number of initiatives.
The production cycle begins with planting at the end of June and then continue with the vegetable transplant within the first ten days of August. Only after the beginning of the winter, around the middle of December, it is possible to gather the vegetable and market it in bunches.
For its seasonality, being a late broccoletti, it does not present the inflorescence called "heart"; its strength is the soft and sweet rib, a peculiarity that is enhanced only after the first winter frosts.
The climatic element reduces the presence of water in the tissues of the vegetable, increasing the concentration in cellular fluids, mineral salts, sugars and vitamins. For this reason, its taste is sweet and pleasant.