Broccoli: What it is and its Varieties

Broccoli is as popular as most members of the cabbage family where it belongs. Its immature cluster of flower panicles are not just delicious and healthy, but versatile, too.

This multi-purpose vegetable comes in many varieties but is grouped into five major strains: sprouting, broccolini, purple, broccoflower or Romanseco, and Chinese varieties.

Sprouting Variety


The most common of all broccoli cultivars is called the sprouting variety, most popularly known as Calabrese in Great Britain.

You would recognize this vegetable with its cluster of green buds on stems that branch out smaller clusters like ‘sprouts’ from the stems. It has a delicate flavor and is also the most commonly grown variety in the United States.

Some of the sprouting variety breeds include the Green Comet, Express Corona and Italian Sprouting.

Broccolini Variety


The broccolini variety – as what its name indicate – is actually a baby broccoli. It looks exactly like a regular broccoli except that its stalks are thinner and more delicate, its flavor subtle. The flower buds are also smaller.

Technically, broccolini is a hybrid; a cross between broccoli and kai lan or Chinese kale. They are easier to cook and are excellent when stir-fried or included in other dishes. It can also be steamed and served on its own with mayonnaise or butter as a dip.

Purple Variety


The real ancestor of all broccolis is the purple variety. They have been widely used all throughout Europe before the green variety came along.

The purple cultivar is a little smaller than the regular broccoli but there is no difference when it comes to taste. They are hardy so they are often chosen by gardeners to be grown at home. Purple as they are, the heads turn green when they are cooked.

Some of the purple broccoli varieties include Christmas Purple Sprouting, Early Purple Sprouting and Late Purple Sprouting.

Romanesco/Broccoflower Variety


This broccoli strain is unusual in a sense that it is a broccoli that is somewhat like a cauliflower. This should not be a surprise because it’s what it really is – a cross between a broccoli and cauliflower.

It has the look of a cauliflower except for the color and tastes like a broccoli – thus, the name ‘broccoflower.’ It has a nutty, spicy taste, a fine texture and ideally, should be cooked individually and served with melted butter to make the flavor stand out.

Chinese Variety


This broccoli cultivar is called a lot of names: Chinese kale, Gai Lan, Chinese broccoli, White Flowering Broccoli. This strain is characterized by a thick stem with shiny greenish blue leaves.

They are resistant to both hot and cold climates. Once the main stem has been harvested, they continue to grow branches for subsequent harvests.