Broccoli – What Is This Plant Called “The Flowering Top Of A Cabbage”

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. Italica) is a beautiful, nutritious vegetable from the Brassicaceae family. Other plants belonging to the same family include cabbage, cauliflower, and mustards. If you’ve ever wondered what the broccoli plant is, you’ll find all about it here, in this post.

And most of all, if you wonder what the headline that states “the flowering top of a cabbage” means, turn your eyes to Italy! This is because the name broccoli comes from an Italian word called “Broccolo,” which, in Italy, means exactly that – “the flowering top of a cabbage”!

Broccolis are cruciferous vegetables grown for their edible flower heads, but the stalks are edible as well. Once you’ve cut off the stalk and bud, it looks like a small tree, adding a beautiful twist to your everyday cuisine.

The plant has high fiber content and is packed with vitamins and minerals, making it a nutritious vegetable. It’s enriched with vitamins A, C, K, potassium, and folic acid. These boost your immune system and lower the risk of cancer. Cook it or eat it fresh; you’ll find it equally delicious. They’re delicious, nutritious, and easy to grow – no wonder broccolis are so popular worldwide.

Common NameBroccoli
Botanical NameBrassica Oleracea Var. Italica
Plant TypeBiennial
Size (Fully Grown)Height Of 2.5 Feet (About 76 cm)
Sun ExposurePreferably Full Sun, But Can Tolerate Light Shade Too
Soil TypeA Nutrient-rich, Moist Soil With Plenty Of Organic Matter And Drains Well
Soil pHFrom 6.0 To 7.0
Flower ColorYellow
U.S. Hardiness Zones3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, And 10
Native AreaEastern Mediterranean And Asia Minor

How Many Broccoli Varieties Are There?

Since broccolis are popular worldwide, and different areas have their variants, you’ll find countless varieties out there adapted to the local growing conditions. The three most commonly grown types are the Calabrese broccoli, sprouting broccoli, and purple cauliflower.

The calabrese variety is the most basic one and is often called broccoli. Purple cauliflower is, although, a type of broccoli, it has its head in the shape of a cauliflower comprising several tiny flower buds. Sometimes, it also has a cast on the tips of these flowers.

While it’s hard to put a number on the total variants of this particular plant, here’s a list of some of the most common ones:

  1. Fiesta
  2. Magic
  3. Comet
  4. Belstar
  5. Destiny
  6. Arcadia
  7. DiCicco
  8. Calabria
  9. Diplomat
  10. Sun King
  11. Calabrese
  12. Everest F1
  13. Romanesco
  14. Waltham 29
  15. Green Goliath
  16. Small Miracle
  17. Emerald Pride
  18. Eastern Magic
  19. Purple Peacock
  20. Purple Sprouting

What Is The Origin Of Broccoli?

Broccolis are ancient vegetables native to the Mediterranean. We can track its history back to the Roman Empire, and what’s interesting is that broccoli did not exist naturally. It was engineered from a type of cabbage done by an ancient Italian civilization called Etruscans.

This civilization existed in the same area that’s now marked as Tuscany on the map. Even the name broccoli, in English, is extracted from the word broccolo (Italian), which means the cabbage’s flowering crust.

The vegetable quickly gained popularity in Italy but was a treasured food item in the Roman Empire. It was during the late 1700s that broccoli was introduced to England and America. It was initially called the “Italian asparagus” by the English before it took the name broccoli.

Broccolis were introduced to the Americans back in the 1700s, primarily by Thomas Jefferson. He got the seeds from Italians to experiment with them in America. It did not gain real popularity until the 1920s when the southern Italian immigrants brought the seeds.

Today, they’re more common in India and China than in all other parts of the world. The two countries together produce 73% of the world’s broccoli. Thanks to the countless health benefits, appetizing appearance, and crunchy flavor, broccoli production has nearly tripled in the past 30 years.

What Does Broccoli Look Like?

The plant includes thick dark green leaves growing off a thick green stem. The plant grows approximately 18 to 36 inches (about 45 to 91 cm) tall, forming singular or many flower heads at the central axis’s base from where the branches originate.

The Flower Head

Broccolis have large flower heads that look like cauliflower in their appearance, which is also the edible part. They’re blue-green and arranged in the form of a small tree, with branches protruding out of a thick, light green stalk.

Depending on the broccoli variety, the green central heads can have a diameter of 4 to 6 inches (about 10 to 15 cm). But, the side shoots are usually smaller, attaining about 1 to 2 inches (about 2,5 to 5 cm) of diameter.

Blooms

We usually harvest the blue-green flower buds before they even bloom. If you don’t harvest them and let them bloom, small yellow flowers appear on the green heads. The yellow flowers produce silique fruits bearing seeds that reproduce to continue the cycle.

The Leaves

The large blue-green leaves are held by a central petiole, which keeps them upright. Different varieties produce leaves with different shapes and sizes, and their edges can be curled or straight. Some types have long, thin leaves, while others make short and wide ones. Though the leaves are edible, most gardeners like to harvest only the flower buds attached to the stalk.

© gitusik – stock.adobe.com

YES! Broccoli contains plenty of fatty acids, vitamins, and fibers that help regulate your blood pressure, thus being good for your heart!

What Conditions Does Broccoli Need To Grow?

Is your climate suitable for growing broccolis? You wouldn’t want to waste all that time and energy planting a crop destined to fail, would you? So, let’s make sure you have the right growing conditions before you plant the seeds.

What Temperatures Can Broccoli Tolerate?

Broccoli is a cool-weather crop, with very little tolerance to the summer heat. The plant needs approximately 60 – 150 days, depending on the variety, to grow from seed to harvest—the best temperatures to grow broccoli lie between 40 – 70°F (about 4 – 21°C).

If you plant it in late winter or early spring, you’ll want it to come to harvest before the temperatures go above 75°F (about 24°C), so plan accordingly. If you plant it in late summer or early fall, make sure to harvest it before the temperatures drop below the optimal range.

What Climate Does Broccoli Grow In?

Broccoli is a frost-tolerant crop that is perfect for cooler climates. It’s hardy to USDA zones 3 to 10, but gardeners in different areas time the harvest differently to match with their local environment.

In the cooler climates, zones 3 to 5, many gardeners plant the broccoli seeds somewhere around April to May (late spring). For zones 6 to 8, planting a bit earlier, in March to April, is the better choice so that the plants are ready before it gets too hot.

Lastly, for the hotter climates of zones 9 and 10, the best time to plant is between July to October, in late summers, so there’s plenty of time before the hot temperatures strike again.

Finally, choose a nutrient-rich, well-draining spot with full sun exposure for your broccolis. They appreciate it if the soil under them is slightly on the acidic side, with a pH between 6.0 to 7.0.

If the region you grow in has a sandy soil structure, you might want to amend it with aged-compost to improve the texture and enrich it with the necessary nitrogen.

Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Broccoli?

You’ve heard your parents tell you to “eat your broccoli,” but are they safe for everyone? We have listed some useful information on allergies and special considerations for certain people when eating broccoli.

Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women

Broccoli is safe, in fact healthy, for pregnant and breastfeeding women when consumed in controlled amounts. But, it’s not known if consuming broccoli in large quantities could create a problem. So, in other words, it’s best to avoid consuming heavy amounts.

Children

Broccoli is an exceptionally nutritious vegetable for both kids and adults, as long as it’s taken in adequate amounts as part of a regular diet. There isn’t information if large medicinal quantities could be a hazard, so it’s best to consume it in moderation.

People With Allergies

Broccoli allergies aren’t widespread, but they’re possible. The most common type of broccoli allergy is the salicylate allergy. Salicylate is a chemical found in broccoli and many other fruits and vegetables, plus certain medicines like aspirin.

So, if you are allergic to salicylate, you can’t eat apples, avocados, coffee, bell pepper, zucchini, and cucumbers either.

Pollen food syndrome is also possible since broccoli contains specific proteins like those present in allergy-causing pollens. Touching broccolis may also cause skin rashes in hypersensitive people.

People With Diabetes

Like other green-leaved vegetables like cabbage and spinach, broccoli is a beneficial plant to people with diabetes. The plant doesn’t raise your blood sugar levels, and as a matter of fact, studies show that consuming it may even lower it.

People With Other Medical Conditions

Ohio State University confirms that people taking blood-thinning medications regularly shouldn’t overeat broccoli since Vitamin K present in this vegetable hinders the medicine’s effectiveness. People with hypothyroidism should also keep a check on their broccoli consumption.

Pets

Pet owners have nothing to worry about if they’re growing broccoli plants in their garden. The plant is completely safe for both cats and dogs.

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