AskDefine | Define broccoli

Dictionary Definition



1 plant with dense clusters of tight green flower buds [syn: Brassica oleracea italica]
2 branched green undeveloped flower heads

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A plant of the cabbage family, Brassicaceae (formerly Cruciferae); especially, the tree-shaped flower and stalk that are eaten as a vegetable.


a plant of the cabbage family, Brassicaceae
  • Czech: brokolice
  • Hungarian: brokkoli
  • Italian: broccolo
  • Japanese: ブロッコリ
  • Maltese: brokkola
  • Portuguese: brócolis
  • Russian: брокколи
  • Spanish: brécol, bróculi



  1. Plural of broccolo

Extensive Definition

Broccoli is a plant of the Cabbage family, Brassicaceae (formerly Cruciferae). It is classified as the Italica Cultivar Group of the species Brassica oleracea. Broccoli possesses abundant fleshy flower heads, usually green in color, arranged in a tree-like fashion on branches sprouting from a thick, edible stalk. The large mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves. Broccoli most closely resembles cauliflower, which is a different cultivar group of the same species, but broccoli is green rather than white. In the United States, the term refers exclusively to the form with a single large head. This form is sometimes called "Calabrese" in the United Kingdom, where sprouting (non-heading) types and those with underdeveloped flower buds are also sold as broccoli.


The word broccoli comes from the Italian broccolo, the diminuitive of brocco, meaning shoot, stalk. Broccoli is a cultivar of wild cabbage, remaining exactly the same species. Wild cabbage originated along the northern and western coasts of the Mediterranean, where it was apparently domesticated thousands of years ago. That domesticated cabbage was eventually bred into widely varying forms, including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, and brussels sprouts, all of which remain the same species. It is also assumed that broccoli is related to the Dandelion plant.
Roman references to a cabbage-family vegetable that may have been broccoli are less than perfectly clear: the Roman natural history writer, Pliny the Elder, wrote about a vegetable that fit the description of broccoli. This would imply that the Romans grew their own broccoli for culinary uses during the 1st century. Some vegetable scholars recognize broccoli in the cookbook of Apicius.
Broccoli was an Italian vegetable, as its name suggests, long before it was eaten elsewhere. At that time it was a sprouting type, not the single large head that is seen today. It is first mentioned in France in 1560, but in 1724 broccoli was still so unfamiliar in England that Philip Miller's Gardener's Dictionary (1724 edition) referred to it as a stranger in England and explained it as "sprout colli-flower" or "Italian asparagus." In the American colonies, Thomas Jefferson was also an experimenting gardener with a wide circle of European correspondents, from whom he got packets of seeds for rare vegetables such as tomatoes. He noted the planting of broccoli at Monticello along with radishes, lettuce, and cauliflower on May 27 1767. Nevertheless, broccoli remained exotic in American gardens. In 1775, John Randolph, in A Treatise on Gardening by a Citizen of Virginia, felt he had to explain about broccoli: "The stems will eat like Asparagus, and the heads like cauliflower."
Italians brought broccoli to North America by 1806, but it did not become popular until the 1920s. Commercial cultivation of broccoli in the United States can be traced to the D'Arrigo brothers, Stephano and Andrea, Italian immigrants from Messina, whose company made some tentative plantings in San Jose, California, in 1922. A few crates were initially shipped to Boston, where there was a thriving Italian immigrant culture in the North End. The broccoli business boomed, with the D'Arrigo's brand name "Andy Boy" named after Stephano's two-year-old son, Andrew, and backed with advertisements on the radio.


There are three commonly grown types of broccoli. The most familiar is sometimes called Calabrese in Great Britain and simply 'broccoli' in North America. It has large (10 - 20 cm) green heads and thick stalks, and is named after Calabria in Italy where it was first cultivated. It is a cool season annual crop.
Sprouting broccoli has a larger number of heads with many thin stalks. It is planted in May to be harvested during the winter or early the following year in temperate climates.
Romanesco broccoli has a distinctive fractal appearance of its heads, and is yellow-green in colour. It is technically in the Botrytis (cauliflower) cultivar group
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.

Cultivation, nutritional value, and preparation

Broccoli is a cool-weather crop that does poorly in hot summer weather. Broccoli grows best when exposed to an average daily temperature between 65 and 75 degrees farenheit. The majority (99%) of the United States broccoli crop is grown in California and Arizona. Other cultivar groups of Brassica oleracea include: cabbage (Capitata Group), cauliflower (Botrytis Group), kale and collard greens (Acephala Group), kohlrabi (Gongylodes Group), and Brussels sprouts (Gemmifera Group). Chinese broccoli (Alboglabra Group) is also a cultivar group of Brassica oleracea.
Broccoli is high in vitamin C and soluble fiber and contains multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties including diindolylmethane and selenium. 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 anticancer compound sulforaphane, though the benefits of broccoli are reduced if the vegetable is boiled. A high intake of broccoli has been found to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Broccoli leaf is also edible and contains far more betacarotene than the florets.
Broccoli is usually boiled or steamed, but may be eaten raw and has become popular as a raw vegetable in hors-d'oeuvre trays. Although boiling has been shown to reduce the levels of suspected anticancer compounds in broccoli, other preparation methods such as steaming, microwaving, and stir-frying have been shown not to reduce the presence of these compounds.

In popular culture

In 1928, when broccoli was still something of a novelty in the United States, a cartoon appeared in the New Yorker magazine. A mother and child are seated at the table, and the mother says, "It's broccoli, dear." The child replies, "I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it."
The English band Coil, on their 1999 album Musick to Play in the Dark Vol. 1, released a track called 'Broccoli', praising the health benefits of the vegetable.

In politics

United States President George H. W. Bush was known to have an active disdain for broccoli, having actually said so in an offhand remark during his presidency. In response, a powerful broccoli agriculture lobby sent several tons of it to the White House. This broccoli was promptly donated to the Capital Area Food Bank. His son, President George W. Bush, mentioned during a 2004 question-and-answer session that he doesn't mind broccoli, but does prefer the florets to the stalk.



External links

broccoli in Arabic: بروكلي
broccoli in Min Nan: Chheⁿ-hoe-chhài
broccoli in Catalan: Bròquil
broccoli in Czech: Brokolice
broccoli in Danish: Broccoli
broccoli in German: Broccoli
broccoli in Dhivehi: ބުރޮކޯޅި
broccoli in Modern Greek (1453-): Μπρόκολο
broccoli in Spanish: Brassica oleracea italica
broccoli in Esperanto: Brokolo
broccoli in French: Brocoli
broccoli in Iloko: Broccoli
broccoli in Indonesian: Brokoli
broccoli in Hebrew: ברוקולי
broccoli in Haitian: Bwokoli
broccoli in Lithuanian: Brokolis
broccoli in Hungarian: Brokkoli
broccoli in Malayalam: ബ്രോക്കൊളി
broccoli in Marathi: ब्रोकली
broccoli in Dutch: Broccoli
broccoli in Japanese: ブロッコリー
broccoli in Norwegian: Brokkoli
broccoli in Norwegian Nynorsk: Brokkoli
broccoli in Polish: Brokuł
broccoli in Portuguese: Brócolis
broccoli in Romanian: Broccoli
broccoli in Russian: Брокколи
broccoli in Sicilian: Brassica oleracea italica
broccoli in Simple English: Broccoli
broccoli in Slovenian: Brokoli
broccoli in Serbian: Броколи
broccoli in Finnish: Parsakaali
broccoli in Swedish: Broccoli
broccoli in Turkish: Brokoli
broccoli in Chinese: 西蘭花
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