The Most Complete Guide to Broccoli

In this blog we’ll show you the characteristics of broccoli, its main varieties, properties, history, main producers and importers, how it is grown and some products made from this vegetable. Don’t miss it!    

What is broccoli and what are its characteristics?  

Scientific nameBrassica oleracea var. italica
Common nameBrócoli, broccoli.
Place of originTurkey, Syria, Greece and Italy.
HabitatCold climates  
DistributionNorth America and Europe.

Characteristics of the broccoli plant  

The broccoli plant consists simply of its leaves, which can number from 15 to a maximum of 30 and are located around the fruit. These leaves tend to be larger than the food in length and width, so they can reach an average of 30 centimeters wide and an average of 50 centimeters long (the size of the fruit will be discussed in the next paragraph).

Characteristics of broccoli

It belongs to the Brassicaceae family. The best known variety of broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. Italica) is green, while there are less conventional varieties such as purple broccoli.  

This vegetable has a series of edible, fleshy, curly and fluffy flowers or flower heads at the top and a small, thin, light green trunk that supports them at the bottom. From this trunk grow the stems from which the clusters of flower heads of the vegetable are formed. The trunk can measure 3 to 6 cm thick. This food takes on the silhouette of a small tree and sizes from 20 to 50 centimeters in height.

This crop is distributed in countries such as the United States, France, England, Holland and Italy.

Types of broccoli  

In general there are 5 types or varieties of broccoli:  

  1. Calabrian broccoli
  1. Purple broccoli  
  1. Sprouting broccoli
  1. Broccoli Rabé 
  1. Broccolini 

There are some websites that mention Broccoli Romanesco as a type of broccoli, but this is actually cauliflower, a different species.  

Here is a brief description of these varieties.

Broccoli Calabrese  

GenusBrassica oleracea
Common nameCalabrian or calabrese broccoli
Place of origin   Calabria, Italy.
HabitatCold climates, light or deep soils with a good amount of organic matter.

The name of this broccoli comes from the Calabria region in Italy.  

The fleshy part of its flowers that form a sort of heads can measure from 10 to 20 centimeters. Its color can vary from a typical green to a bluish green.  

Because it is grown in cold climates in the Italian nation, the crop is harvested annually in the winter season.  

Purple broccoli   

Also known as purple broccoli. As the name suggests, this broccoli is purple in color in the fruit heads, while the leaves of the plant are preserved dark green. Its head has a cauliflower silhouette. This variety is common in southern Italy, the United Kingdom and Spain.  

Besides its color, this broccoli differs from the traditional one because it can be grown not only in winter, but also in spring. It also differs because the purple broccoli has a sweeter flavor and requires a shorter cooking time. Furthermore, this broccoli has a slower growth time than conventional broccoli.

Purple broccoli
from PxHere

Broccoli Sprouting   

Also known as broccoli florets or broccoli sprouts, it is said to be a fusion of broccoli and cabbage belonging to the same family as cauliflower and cabbage (Brassicaceae). Its appearance is almost the same as a green asparagus only with the same heads as traditional broccoli in much smaller and sometimes purple-toned versions.  

This variety contains more antioxidants, zinc, vitamin C and folic acid than asparagus, conventional broccoli and spinach.  

It is recommended to include this broccoli in the diet of people who want to lose weight because of its high fiber and linoleic acid content, which helps eliminate bad cholesterol and fat from the body.

Broccoli Sprouting purple
Broccoli Sprouting purple

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

This is what a Sprouting broccoli looks like in its purple presentation.

Broccoli Rabé   

Scientific nameBrassica rapa L. var. rapa
Common nameGrelo, rapini, broccoli raab, broccoli rabe, broccoli italiano, broccoli rabe (raap o raab) broccoletti, cime di rape, broccoli di rape, cumbre di rapa, rapp or friarielli o brocoli-rave
Habitat(see broccoli characteristics data sheet).

In terms of leaf distribution and color (green) this variety is very similar to parsley. When the plant is young and has no leaves or flowers, it is known as turnip. Its flavor tends to be associated with a pleasant and light mixture of spicy and bitter, some assimilate it to the taste of walnut.  

It is edinle as long as it is tender because once its flower or its leaves grow it will be too difficult to chew or cook as it becomes stiff. The way to know if it can be consumed is by making a cross section, a strong white color means that it can no longer be eaten because it has hardened.  

It is widely used in Spain in areas such as Galicia and Asturias, in northern Portugal, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.

Turnips are used in many countries’ cuisine in a similar way to what is known in southern Europe as turnip greens.


Scientific nameBroccolini Brassica oleracea var. botritis
Common nameBroccolini, aspabroc, brocheta, broccoletti, brócoli italiano y brócoli dulce. Bimi and Tenderstem
DistributionNorth America, Europe, Oceania and Central America.

Also called baby broccoli as it is a mini version of the original broccoli. It was developed in Yokohama, Japan in 1993 in order to optimize the broccoli and kale species called Chinese kai Ian by merging them to create a better tasting species. It was initially developed by the Sakata Seed Company, who worked for 8 years on this variety and later joined corporations such as Mann Packing Company in Salinas, California.

One of the names by which it is known “bimi” is a Japanese word meaning “delicious” which was proposed by Sakata Vegetables Europe SAS as the brand name under which the product would be marketed.

Although it was developed in Japan, it is grown mostly in the United States in areas such as Arizona and California, in the United Kingdom and Australia and in other countries such as Mexico. Its flavor is sweeter and can be cooked faster than conventional broccoli; if you eat it raw, you may find it slightly mustardy.

Properties and benefits of broccoli  

Broccoli nutritional profile

We invite you to see the broccoli nutritional table per 100g taken from Vegaffinity.   

CompositionQuantity (gr)CDR(%)
MineralsQuantity (mg)CDR(%)
VitaminsQuantity (mg)CDR(%)
Vitamin A0.1415.9%
Vitamin B10.097.5%
Vitamin B20.1813.8%
Vitamin B31.520%
Vitamin B1200%
Vitamin C100111.1%

5 properties of broccoli  

Medicine for anemia   

As it has a large amount of iron within its nutritional values, broccoli becomes an alternative for people suffering from anemia, since one of the causes of this disease is the low level of iron in the body.  

For this reason, in addition to consuming certain drugs, doctors may recommend their patients to eat broccoli frequently to treat this condition.

Helps purify the body  

Broccoli has an important percentage of fiber, this element stimulates the elimination of body wastes and is also useful in cases of constipation or any condition related to the intestinal tract where this process of toxins expulsion gets stagnated. It has long been known that foods with fiber such as broccoli act as a laxative in these cases.

Reduces bad cholesterol  

If you want to get in shape, you should include broccoli in your diet as this food is not only rich in nutrients, but is also low in fat, so it will not represent any problem to get rid of those extra pounds that are often the result of excess fat or bad cholesterol in the body.  

Likewise, by decreasing the fat index in the body, it prevents problems that may be bigger in the future, such as suffering from heart disease.

Avoids bone diseases

This food preserves bone health given its high content of components such as phosphorus, calcium and iron. These minerals prevent the deterioration of the bone system caused by diseases such as osteoporosis.

Rich in vitamin A

When consuming broccoli, a large percentage of vitamin A enters your system. This vitamin is key in the most important processes of our body such as vision, immune system performance and fertility level of each person. It also protects some of the most essential organs for our existence such as the heart, kidneys and lungs.  

Finally, people who consume this food daily, by increasing their vitamin A levels, significantly reduce the risk of cancer.

History and origin of broccoli  

Its name comes from the Italian word “broco”, which means sprout, as it has the ability to resprout and the shoots that grow next to it after pruning the main head.

The first approaches to this food were given in Turkey, Syria and Greece.  

The Celts and Saxons were the first groups of people to cultivate broccoli in the north of the European continent. Before being used in the culinary world, it was used as a treatment for some ailments such as deafness, headache, diarrhea, among others.  

Its expansion around the world is attributed to travelers and traders who moved across the Mediterranean Sea, arriving first in England, then in Spain and later in all the places where it is currently harvested.

Global industry of broccoli

Meet the main producers and importers of broccoli in the world.    

Top 5 broccoli producers in the world

Worldwide, 20 million tons of broccoli are produced over an area of 1’600,000 million hectares. China and India are the main producers worldwide and the production level of these two countries accounts for 74% of world production.

Below, we’ll see the 5 countries with the highest amount of broccoli tons produced in 2020 according to FAO:  

CountryTons of broccoli produced in a year
United States1’240.710


In this country, an increase in broccoli production has been observed from 2006 to 2020. In the first year they had figures of 5’320,000 tons of broccoli and reached a peak of 9’080,000 tons in 2019; however, this peak declined to 8’840,000 tons in 2020, representing a percentage decrease of -2.68%.  

India has a production area of 458,000 hectares.  

You can see in more detail the broccoli production figures of this country in the following graph.



Broccoli production in this country is mainly located in the province of Hebei in Zhangjiakou, where more than 100 hectares are devoted to broccoli production. A small part of this production is destined for export to Southeast Asia and Korea. The cost of this food in China is higher than in foreign countries.

The United States   

Aside from being third in the top 5 broccoli producing countries, in 2011 the USA produced more than 2 billion pounds of broccoli, which represents a profit of 750 million dollars with more than 52,609 hectares of cultivation.  

The state that produces the most U.S. broccoli are California with a percentage of 90% of the national production, followed by Arizona, Oregon and Texas. In recent years, more than 202,343 hectares of broccoli were harvested in the northeast of the country.


Currently, Spain has an average of 50,000 hectares dedicated to broccoli cultivation. Fifty percent of Spanish broccoli production takes place in the region of Murcia, the remaining percentage in Extremadura and Ribera del Ebro.

Of this production, 400,000 tons are destined to fresh export and 120,000 tons to frozen. These numbers indicate a 100% increase in national production compared to the last 10 years. As for exports, Spain’s preferred customers are:

  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • The Netherlands
  • Scandinavian countries
  • Arab Emirates
  • Romania
  • Bulgaria
  • Russia  


This country has an exported value of broccoli of 88,381 dollars. Of its production of 433,252 tons, 81,264 kilograms are destined for export to the world with a unit value per kilogram of 1.09 dollars. The percentage of this export is 6.3% with respect to broccoli exports from other countries.

With respect to the reference prices for broccoli exports, the FOB value for 365,555 kilograms is US$309,666 and the FOB price per kilogram is US$0.85.

Largest importers of broccoli in the world      

According to the AMHPAC Business and Markets Portal, the countries with the highest broccoli import figures are those you see in the following graph, indicating their import level in dollars, their quantity imported in thousands of kilograms, and their unit value per kilogram in dollars.

CountryImported value (Thousands USD $)Imported quantity (thousands of kilograms)Unit value per kilogram.
United States$ 354,751305,820$ 1.16
United Kingdom$ 215,463152,096$ 1.48
Canada$ 145,491110,097$ 1.32
Germany$ 81,41376,301$ 1.05
Malaysia$ 68,64059,625$ 1.15
France$ 54,09652,603$ 1.15
Netherlands$ 53,23245,910$ 1.29
Poland$ 39,99136,840$ 1.09
Thailand$ 17,52436,484$ 0.48
Portugal$ 21,89835,510$ 0.62

AMHPAC Business and Markets Portal

How is broccoli cultivated?  

There are a series of requirements that must be taken into account to grow this vegetable. Below, we’ll show them:


It has to be sandy and humid with a high amount of organic matter, preferably with a pH between 5.5 and 6.8.  

Keep in mind that this crop is not adapted to limestone soils, so it should always be planted in neutral soils.


Broccoli grows best in cool or cold climates with temperatures ranging from 4°C to a maximum of 20°C.  

Although broccoli flourishes in low temperatures, frost must be avoided to avoid damaging the quality of the plant.

Broccoli sowing method  


As previously mentioned, this crop is demanding in terms of organic matter and nutrients, so it is necessary to add compost.  


As this crop needs constant humidity, it needs to be watered constantly and with abundant water. If it is going to be planted at home, it is better to use drip irrigation rather than sprinkler irrigation, since the latter method could promote the growth of fungi.


We’ll get a successful sowing by applying the 2 steps we’ve outlined so far. Broccoli must be sown in outdoor seedbeds by digging holes that are about 2 centimeters deep; it is from these seedbeds that the seeds for this crop are taken.

When the crop reaches about 10 or 15 centimeters in height, we can proceed to transplant it by putting it outdoors. At that time, a vast amount of soil is added at the base of the stem so that the trunk remains upright and doesn’t twist as it flowers.

Broccoli  harvesting

This crop will be ready in about 60 to 90 days after transplanting. When we are harvesting broccoli, we need to prune its central head and apply decomposed compost to the remaining sprouts to encourage new sprouts to flower.

Broccoli post-harvesting

This food should be kept in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag that has no residual air for a maximum of 10 days. If not refrigerated, it will become stringy.

Uses and Products made from broccoli   

Broccoli is often used as an accompaniment to savory foods such as chicken, rice or salads, but it can also be eaten whole without the company of other food.  

Currently, only one product is known to be launched on the market that has been manufactured from broccoli and it is broccoli powder. This powder was created by Australian researchers in order to mix it in beverages and foods to enrich their amount of nutritional values in the same way in which a dietary supplement is used.  

Recipes have also been created with this food such as:  

  • Broccoli croquettes
  • Broccoli creams with parmesan or cheddar cheese
  • Mini broccoli cakes
  • Sweet muffins
  • Broccoli and cheese cream  

Pasta with broccoli pesto. Broccoli can surprise you – I bet you didn’t expect purple broccoli to exist, did you? On the other hand, once we get to know it better, we realize why it is such an important vegetable for our health, so don’t hesitate to include broccoli in your diet if you want a healthier you.