SpeciesBrassica oleracea
Cultivar groupitalica
OriginItaly, more than 2,000 years ago[1][2]

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) is an edible green plant in the cabbage family (family Brassicaceae, genus Brassica) whose large flowering head, stalk and small associated leaves are eaten as a vegetable. Broccoli is classified in the Italica cultivar group of the species Brassica oleracea. Broccoli has large flower heads, or florets, usually dark green, arranged in a tree-like structure branching out from a thick stalk which is usually light green. The mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves. Broccoli resembles cauliflower, which is a different but closely related cultivar group of the same Brassica species.

It can be eaten either raw or cooked. Broccoli is a particularly rich source of vitamin C and vitamin K. Contents of its characteristic sulfur-containing glucosinolate compounds, isothiocyanates and sulforaphane, are diminished by boiling but are better preserved by steaming, microwaving or stir-frying.[3]

Rapini, sometimes called "broccoli rabe", is a distinct species from broccoli, forming similar but smaller heads, and is actually a type of turnip (Brassica rapa).[4]

Broccoli plants in a nursery
Close-ups of broccoli florets (click to enlarge)


Brassica oleracea var. italica was described in 1794 by Joseph Jakob von Plenck in Icones Plantarum Medicinalium 6:29, t. 534.[5] Like all the other brassicas, broccoli was developed from the wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. oleracea), also called colewort or field cabbage.


The word broccoli, first used in the 17th century, 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".[6]


Broccoli resulted from the breeding of landrace Brassica crops in the northern Mediterranean starting in about the sixth century BCE.[7] Broccoli has its origins in primitive cultivars grown in the Roman Empire and was most likely improved via artificial selection in the southern Italian Peninsula or in Sicily.[8][9][10] Broccoli was spread to northern Europe by the 18th century and brought to North America in the 19th century by Italian immigrants.[9] After the Second World War, the breeding of the United States and Japanese F1 hybrids increased yields, quality, growth speed, and regional adaptation, which produced the cultivars commonly grown since then: 'Premium Crop', 'Packman', and 'Marathon'.[9]


Broccoli flower

Broccoli is an annual plant which can grow up to 60–90 cm (20–40 in) tall.[11]

Broccoli is very similar to cauliflower, but unlike it, its floral buds are well-formed and clearly visible.[further explanation needed] The inflorescence grows at the end of a central, thick stem and is dark green. Violet, yellow or even white heads have been created, but these varieties are rare. The flowers are yellow with four petals.

The growth season for broccoli is 14–15 weeks. Broccoli is collected by hand immediately after the head is fully formed yet the flowers are still in their bud stage. The plant develops numerous little "heads" from the lateral shoots which can be harvested later.


There are three commonly grown types of broccoli.[9] The most familiar is Calabrese broccoli, often referred to simply as "broccoli", named after Calabria in Italy. It has large 10-to-20-centimetre (4–8 in) green heads and thick stalks. It is a cool-season annual crop. Sprouting broccoli (white or purple) has a larger number of heads with many thin stalks.[12] Purple cauliflower or violet cauliflower is a type of broccoli grown in Europe and North America. It has a head shaped like cauliflower but consists of many tiny flower buds. It sometimes, but not always, has a purple cast to the tips of the flower buds. Purple cauliflower may also be white, red, green, or other colors.[13]

Beneforté is a variety of broccoli containing 2–3 times more glucoraphanin and produced by crossing broccoli with a wild Brassica variety, Brassica oleracea var villosa.[14]

Other cultivar groups of Brassica oleracea

Main article: Brassica oleracea § Cultivars

Other cultivar groups of Brassica oleracea include cabbage (Capitata Group), cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli (Botrytis Group), kale (Acephala Group), collard (Viridis Group), kohlrabi (Gongylodes Group), Brussels sprouts (Gemmifera Group), and kai-lan (Alboglabra Group).[15] As these groups are the same species, they readily hybridize: for example, broccolini or "Tenderstem broccoli" is a cross between broccoli and kai-lan.[16] Broccoli cultivars form the genetic basis of the "tropical cauliflowers" commonly grown in South and Southeastern Asia, although they produce a more cauliflower-like head in warmer conditions.[17][9]

Broccoli production — 2021
(includes cauliflower)
Country Production
millions of tonnes
 China 9.5
 India 9.2
 United States 1.0
 Spain 0.7
 Mexico 0.7
World 25.8
Source: FAOSTAT of the United Nations[18]


The majority of broccoli cultivars are cool-weather crops that do poorly in hot summer weather. Broccoli grows best when exposed to an average daily temperature between 18 and 23 °C (64 and 73 °F).[19][20] When the cluster of flowers, also referred to as a "head" of broccoli, appears in the center of the plant, the cluster is generally green. Garden pruners or shears are used to cut the head about 25 mm (1 in) from the tip. Broccoli should be harvested before the flowers on the head bloom bright yellow.[21] Broccoli cannot be harvested using machines, but rather is hand-harvested.[22]


In 2021, global production of broccoli (combined for production reports with cauliflowers) was 26 million tonnes, with China and India together accounting for 72% of the world total.[18] Secondary producers, each having about one million tonnes or less annually, were the United States, Spain, and Mexico (table).

In the United States, broccoli is grown year-round in California – which produced 92% of the crop nationally – with 95% of the total crop produced for fresh sales in 2018.[23]

Broccoli, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy141 kJ (34 kcal)
6.64 g
Sugars1.7 g
Dietary fiber2.6 g
0.37 g
2.82 g
Vitamin A equiv.
31 μg
361 μg
1403 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.071 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.117 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.639 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.573 mg
Vitamin B6
0.175 mg
Folate (B9)
63 μg
19 mg
Vitamin C
89.2 mg
Vitamin E
0.78 mg
Vitamin K
101.6 μg
47 mg
0.73 mg
21 mg
0.21 mg
66 mg
316 mg
33 mg
0.41 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water89.3 g

Percentages estimated using US recommendations for adults,[24] except for potassium, which is estimated based on expert recommendation from the National Academies.[25]


Raw broccoli is 89% water, 7% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and contains negligible fat (table). A 100-gram (3+12-ounce) reference amount of raw broccoli provides 141 kilojoules (34 kilocalories) of food energy and is a rich source (20% or higher of the Daily Value, DV) of vitamin C (107% DV) and vitamin K (97% DV) (table). Raw broccoli also contains moderate amounts (10–19% DV) of several B vitamins and the dietary mineral manganese, whereas other micronutrients are low in content (less than 10% DV). Broccoli contains the dietary carotenoid, beta-carotene.[26]


See also: List of broccoli dishes

Boiling substantially reduces the levels of broccoli glucosinolates, while other cooking methods, such as steaming, microwaving, and stir-frying, have no significant effect on glucosinolate levels.[3]


The perceived bitterness of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, results from glucosinolates and their hydrolysis products, particularly isothiocyanates and other sulfur-containing compounds.[27] Preliminary research indicates that genetic inheritance through the gene TAS2R38 may be responsible in part for bitter taste perception in broccoli.[28]


Mostly introduced by accident to North America, Australia and New Zealand, "cabbage worms", the larvae of Pieris rapae, also known as the "small white" butterfly, are a common pest in broccoli.[29]

Additional pests common to broccoli production include:[30]


See also


  1. ^ Buck, P. A. (1956). "Origin and taxonomy of broccoli". Economic Botany. 10 (3): 250–253. doi:10.1007/bf02899000. S2CID 31365713.
  2. ^ Stephens, James. "Broccoli—Brassica oleracea L. (Italica group)". University of Florida. p. 1. Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 14 May 2009.
  3. ^ a b Nugrahedi, Probo Y.; Verkerk, Ruud; Widianarko, Budi; Dekker, Matthijs (2015). "A Mechanistic Perspective on Process-Induced Changes in Glucosinolate Content in Brassica Vegetables: A Review". Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 55 (6): 823–838. doi:10.1080/10408398.2012.688076. ISSN 1040-8398. PMID 24915330. S2CID 25728864.
  4. ^ Main, Sandy. "Rapini/Broccoli Raab". Archived from the original on 30 May 2015. Retrieved 13 September 2021.
  5. ^ Missouri Botanical Garden. "Brassica oleracea var. italica". Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  6. ^ "Broccoli". Online Etymology Dictionary. 2022. Archived from the original on 19 January 2023. Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  7. ^ Maggioni, Lorenzo; Bothmer, Roland; Poulsen, Gert; Branca, Ferdinando (2010). "Origin and Domestication of Cole Crops (Brassica oleracea L.): Linguistic and Literary Considerations". Economic Botany. 64 (2): 109–123. doi:10.1007/s12231-010-9115-2. hdl:10568/121874. S2CID 2771884.
  8. ^ Nonnecke, Ib (November 1989). Vegetable Production. Springer-Verlag New York, LLC. p. 394. ISBN 978-0-442-26721-6. Archived from the original on 9 March 2023. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d e Stansell, Zachary; Björkman, Thomas (1 October 2020). "From landrace to modern hybrid broccoli: the genomic and morphological domestication syndrome within a diverse B. oleracea collection". Horticulture Research. 7 (1): 159. doi:10.1038/s41438-020-00375-0. ISSN 2052-7276. PMC 7528014. PMID 33082966. S2CID 224724369.
  10. ^ Stansell, Zachary; Hyma, Katie; Fresnedo-Ramírez, Jonathan; Sun, Qi; Mitchell, Sharon; Björkman, Thomas; Hua, Jian (1 July 2018). "Genotyping-by-sequencing of Brassica oleracea vegetables reveals unique phylogenetic patterns, population structure and domestication footprints". Horticulture Research. 5 (1): 38. doi:10.1038/s41438-018-0040-3. ISSN 2052-7276. PMC 6026498. PMID 29977574.
  11. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. "broccoli, plant". Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  12. ^ "Broccoli". Royal Horticultural Society. Archived from the original on 24 March 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  13. ^ Branca, Ferdinando (2008), Prohens, Jaime; Nuez, Fernando (eds.), "Cauliflower and Broccoli", Vegetables I: Asteraceae, Brassicaceae, Chenopodicaceae, and Cucurbitaceae, Handbook of Plant Breeding, vol. 1, New York, NY: Springer, pp. 151–186, doi:10.1007/978-0-387-30443-4_5, ISBN 978-0-387-30443-4
  14. ^ "British research leads to UK-wide launch of Beneforté broccoli". Quadram Institute. 25 June 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  15. ^ Dixon, G.R. (2007). Vegetable brassicas and related crucifers. Wallingford: CABI. ISBN 978-0-85199-395-9.
  16. ^ Stansell, Zachary; Farnham, Mark; Björkman, Thomas (2019). "Complex Horticultural Quality Traits in Broccoli Are Illuminated by Evaluation of the Immortal BolTBDH Mapping Population". Frontiers in Plant Science. 10: 1104. doi:10.3389/fpls.2019.01104. ISSN 1664-462X. PMC 6759917. PMID 31620146.
  17. ^ Bjorkman, T.; Pearson, K. J. (1 January 1998). "High temperature arrest of inflorescence development in broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica L.)". Journal of Experimental Botany. 49 (318): 101–106. doi:10.1093/jxb/49.318.101. ISSN 0022-0957.
  18. ^ a b "Broccoli (and cauliflower) production in 2021, Crops/Regions/World list/Production Quantity/Year (pick lists)". UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Corporate Statistical Database (FAOSTAT). 2023. Retrieved 12 October 2023.
  19. ^ Smith, Powell (June 1999). "HGIC 1301 Broccoli". Clemson University. Archived from the original on 26 April 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2009.
  20. ^ Branham, Sandra E.; Stansell, Zachary J.; Couillard, David M.; Farnham, Mark W. (1 March 2017). "Quantitative trait loci mapping of heat tolerance in broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) using genotyping-by-sequencing". Theoretical and Applied Genetics. 130 (3): 529–538. doi:10.1007/s00122-016-2832-x. ISSN 1432-2242. PMID 27900399. S2CID 2361874.
  21. ^ Liptay, Albert (1988). Broccoli.
  22. ^ "Broccoli production". Pennsylvania State University, Extension Service. 20 June 2005. Archived from the original on 19 February 2021. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  23. ^ "Broccoli". Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, US Department of Agriculture. 1 June 2018. Archived from the original on 1 July 2019. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  24. ^ United States Food and Drug Administration (2024). "Daily Value on the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels". Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  25. ^ National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Food and Nutrition Board; Committee to Review the Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium (2019). Oria, Maria; Harrison, Meghan; Stallings, Virginia A. (eds.). Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. The National Academies Collection: Reports funded by National Institutes of Health. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US). ISBN 978-0-309-48834-1. PMID 30844154.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  26. ^ Farnham, Mark W.; Kopsell, Dean A. (August 2009). "Importance of Genotype on Carotenoid and Chlorophyll Levels in Broccoli Heads". HortScience. 44 (5): 1248-1253. doi:10.21273/HORTSCI.44.5.1248. Retrieved 18 October 2023. PDF
  27. ^ Bell, Luke; Oloyede, Omobolanle O.; Lignou, Stella; Wagstaff, Carol; Methven, Lisa (30 April 2018). "Taste and flavor perceptions of glucosinolates, isothiocyanates, and related compounds" (PDF). Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 62 (18): 1700990. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201700990. ISSN 1613-4125. PMID 29578640. S2CID 206265098.
  28. ^ Lipchock SV, Mennella JA, Spielman AI, Reed DR (2013). "Human bitter perception correlates with bitter receptor messenger RNA expression in taste cells". Am J Clin Nutr. 98 (4): 1136–43. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.066688. PMC 3778862. PMID 24025627.
  29. ^ Heitzman, J. Richard; Heitzman, Joan E. (1996). Love, Kathy; Larsen, LuAnne (eds.). Butterflies and moths of Missouri. Rathert, Jim (principal photographer). Jefferson City, MO: Missouri Dept. of Conservation. ISBN 1-887247-06-8.
  30. ^ "Cabbage, Broccoli & Other Cole Crop Insect Pests". Home & Garden Information Center. South Carolina: Clemson University. 4 May 2020. Archived from the original on 7 December 2020. Retrieved 28 November 2020.