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a garden vegetable closely related to cauliflower

Broccoli has thick clusters of flower buds that form edible "heads." These heads are green, and they are more branched and open than the tight, round, white heads of cauliflower.


The kind of broccoli most commonly grown in America first came from southern Europe and is called Italian broccoli, or sprouting broccoli. This kind makes a somewhat branching cluster of green flower buds atop a thick, green flower stalk 2-2.5 feet tall, and smaller clusters that arise like "sprouts" from the stems at the attachments of the leaves. The other major kind of broccoli is called "heading broccoli" or "cauliflower broccoli," and makes a dense, white curd like that of cauliflower.

The word "broccoli" is an Italian word taken from the Latin brachium, meaning an arm or branch.


Broccoli grows best in cool weather and in fertile soil with plenty of moisture. It can be grown from seeds in 100 to 120 days. Some growers start the seeds in a greenhouse or in outdoor seedbeds, then transfer the young plants to a garden early in the spring. Commercial growers may plant several crops of broccoli a year. The best crop often matures after the first "killing frost."

Growers cut broccoli when the clusters of flower buds are still green. The flower buds along with their fleshy stems are eaten. Broccoli is rich in vitamins A and C.


Broccoli is a cultivar of wild cabbage, which once flourished along the northern and western coasts of the Mediterranean. The wild cabbage was domesticated thousands of years ago, and was eventually bred into a variety of sub-species, including broccoli, common cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts.

Broccoli was probably first developed in ancient Italy, but its exact origins are unclear. It is first mentioned in France in 1560, but remained unfamiliar to most of Europe until the 1700's.

Commercial cultivation of broccoli in the United States can be traced to the D'Arrigo brothers, Stephano and Andrea, immigrants from Messina, Italy, who made some tentative plantings in San Jose, California, in 1922. A few crates were initially shipped to Boston, where they were an instant hit with the Italian immigrant population, and the rest is, as they say, history.

Scientific Classification

family Cruciferae (mustards)
genus & species Brassica oleracea italica

Brussels Sprouts

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The Robinson Library >> Agriculture >> Plant Culture >> Vegetables

This page was last updated on 10/30/2017.