Did you know that there are many types of broccoli? You’ll likely see vegetables at your local grocery store or farmers ‘ market that vaguely resemble broccoli, but are more leafy, leaner, bright green, blue-green, or even look like fractals. Such variation in size and appearance also means variable growing times, leading to months of broccoli happiness.
All these broccoli varieties and broccoli hybrids are part of the Brassica oleracea species, which also includes cabbage, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, green cabbage and others. If you love cruciferous vegetables as much as I do, keep reading about the different types of broccoli and their unique qualities.
The mountain broccoli that you see in the supermarket is usually a variety of Calabrian broccoli, or typical broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica). It is named after Calabria, a region in southern Italy (think of the toe and ankle of the Italian boot).
Calabrian broccoli forms a large central head with tight florets, that is, small flowers. These thick, flowering stems give the typical broccoli its characteristic appearance; they look like small trees! If you are interested in growing this well-known variety, it grows well in zones 3-10 and is especially cold-resistant. Most Calabrian varieties continue to produce side shoots of mini trees as soon as you harvest the Central head, so expect a long harvest window.
Sprouted broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) is a large, leafy, Summer plant with individual florets instead of a central head. Slightly more bitter than typical broccoli, the leaves, stems and florets are all edible. When searching for varieties online, you will find information about broccoli sprouts, which are sprouted broccoli seeds grown for a few days and then added to salads and sandwiches. Sprouts are delicious but are very different from sprouted broccoli.
Broccoli is usually planted in the fall and overwintered before harvesting in early spring. 6 to 8 weeks of cold temperatures (at or below 50 ° F / 10°C) are required to produce flowers. Wintering may seem like an intimidating commitment, but early spring harvests are welcome after a long winter!
As the name suggests, Chinese broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra) is originally from China. It is known by many other names, such as Chinese kale, gai lan, kailaan and others. Chinese broccoli has very thick stems and large green leaves. It is known that it has a bitter taste, but soaking in cold water before cooking reduces this quality.
Its relatively short growing time, between 35 and 50 days, makes it an excellent vegetable to plant in spring or summer for the fall harvest, or all year round in temperate climates. Stir fry the gai lan with garlic, add your favorite spicy sauce and enjoy a kick of vitamins C, K, A, folic acid and fiber!
Broccoli Turnip (Rapini)
Broccoli turnip (Brassica turnip subsp. rapa) has some well-known characteristics of broccoli, but it is actually part of the same subspecies as turnips. Also known as rapini, green leaves are used in cooking just like turnip leaves. The small prickly broccoli florets are not the focus. On the contrary, the slightly bitter leaves of rapini can be seen in the cuisine of Southern Italy.
Broccoli rabe grows extremely fast. Associated with the continuous growth, you will have an all-you-can-eat buffet of tasty greens from the beginning to the end of the season.
Broccoli vs broccoli rabe or baby broccoli vs Broccoli, what are the differences? While broccoli turnip is a subspecies of turnip, Broccolini (Brassica oleracea var. italica × alboglabra) is a broccoli hybrid-a cross between typical broccoli and Chinese broccoli. It is sometimes called baby broccoli, but this is only in connection with the more delicate size of the stems and florets. It has a super interesting history, which includes development over several years with manual pollination rather than genetic engineering. The name “Broccolini” even has a registered trademark.
A perfect combination of its relatives, the broccolini has long thin stems with small broccoli-like florets on top. Broccolini is also known as tender-stalk broccoli or poor man’s asparagus. It is very similar to broccoli rabe, but has a less bitter taste.
Romanesco broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. Botrytis) is an excellent cousin of bright green broccoli that naturally resembles a fractal. It’s almost too good to eat! It resembles a cross between cauliflower in texture and broccoli in color, so it’s no wonder it’s also known as Roman cauliflower.
Between its beauty and its mild flavor, Romanesco is an excellent choice for home gardens in zones 3-10. If you want to grow something unique and a great conversation starter, Romanesco is for you.
If you feel intimidated by the investment required to grow Calabrian broccoli throughout the season, this article is full of delicious alternatives. And now that you know how to recognize different types of broccoli, you’re going to see them everywhere!