|Cultivar group||Italica Group|
|Origin||From Italy (2,000 years ago)|
Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family whose large, flowering head is eaten as a vegetable. The word broccoli comes from the Italian plural of broccolo, which means "the flowering crest of a cabbage", and is the diminutive form of brocco, meaning "small nail" or "sprout". Broccoli is often boiled or steamed but may be eaten raw.
Broccoli is classified in the Italica cultivar group of the species Brassica oleracea. Broccoli has large flower heads, usually green in color, arranged in a tree-like structure branching out from a thick, edible stalk. The mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves. Broccoli resembles cauliflower, which is a different cultivar group of the same species.
Broccoli is a result of careful breeding of cultivated leafy cole crops in the northern Mediterranean starting in about the 6th century BC. Since the Roman Empire broccoli has been considered a uniquely valuable food among Italians. Broccoli was brought to England from Antwerp in the mid-18th century by Peter Scheemakers. Broccoli was first introduced to the United States by Italian immigrants, but did not become widely known there until the 1920s.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||141 kJ (34 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||2.6 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Broccoli is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber. It also contains multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties, such as diindolylmethane and small amounts of selenium. A single serving provides more than 30 mg of vitamin C and a half-cup provides 52 mg of vitamin C. The 3,3'-Diindolylmethane found in broccoli is a potent modulator of the innate immune response system with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activity. Broccoli also contains the compound glucoraphanin, which can be processed into an anti-cancer compound sulforaphane, though the anti-cancer benefits of broccoli are greatly reduced if the vegetable is boiled. Broccoli is also an excellent source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.
Boiling broccoli reduces the levels of suspected anti-carcinogenic compounds, such as sulforaphane, with losses of 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 77% after thirty minutes. However, other preparation methods such as steaming, microwaving, and stir frying had no significant effect on the compounds.
There are three commonly grown types of broccoli. The most familiar is Calabrese broccoli, often referred to simply as "broccoli", named after Calabria in Italy. It has large (10 to 20 cm) green heads and thick stalks. It is a cool season annual crop. Sprouting broccoli has a larger number of heads with many thin stalks. Purple cauliflower is a type of broccoli sold in southern Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. It has a head shaped like cauliflower, but consisting of tiny flower buds. It sometimes, but not always, has a purple cast to the tips of the flower buds.
Other cultivar groups of Brassica oleracea include cabbage (Capitata Group), cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli (Botrytis Group), kale and collard greens (Acephala Group), kohlrabi (Gongylodes Group), Brussels sprouts (Gemmifera Group),and Chinese broccoli (Alboglabra Group). Rapini, sometimes called "broccoli raab" among other names, forms similar but smaller heads, and is actually a type of turnip (Brassica rapa). Broccolini or "Tenderstem broccoli" is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli. Beneforté is a variety of broccoli containing 2-3 times more glucoraphanin that was produced by crossing broccoli with a wild Brassica variety, Brassica oleracea var villosa.
|Top ten cauliflowers and broccoli producers—2012|
|Country||Production (tonnes)||Share (%)||Footnote|
|People's Republic of China||9,500,000||44.67||F|
|* = Unofficial figure | [ ] = Official data | A = May include official, semi-official or estimated data
F = FAO estimate | Im = FAO data based on imputation methodology | M = Data not available
Broccoli is a cool-weather crop that does poorly in hot summer weather. Broccoli grows best when exposed to an average daily temperature between 18 and 23 °C (64 and 73 °F). When the cluster of flowers, also referred to as a "head" of broccoli, appear in the center of the plant, the cluster is green. Garden pruners or shears are used to cut the head about an inch from the tip. Broccoli should be harvested before the flowers on the head bloom bright yellow.
While the heading broccoli variety performs poorly in hot weather, mainly due to insect infestation, the sprouting variety is more resistant, though attention must be paid to sucking insects (such as aphids), caterpillars and whiteflies. Spraying of bacillus thuringiensis can control caterpillar attacks, while a citronella vase may ward off whiteflies.
Mostly introduced by accident, "cabbage worms", the larvae of Pieris rapae, the small white butterfly are a common pest in broccoli.
|Close-ups of broccoli florets||Sicilian purple broccoli||A leaf of a broccoli plant|
|Broccoli flowers||Romanesco broccoli (actually a cauliflower
cultivar), showing fractal forms
|Broccoli in flower||Steamed broccoli|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Broccoli.|
- PROTAbase on Brassica oleracea (cauliflower and broccoli)
- List of North American broccoli cultivars, USDA/ARS Vegetable Laboratory