Like most people, I have a turbulent relationship with broccoli. While I shudder at the mere thought of eating the bitter green, I fully welcome and appreciate all of its incredible health benefits. Did you know that there are multiple kinds of broccoli?
There are approximately 22 common types of broccoli, and all of them belong to the Brassica family, which also includes several other cruciferous vegetables. Each broccoli type varies in size, taste, appearance, disease resistance, and growing time.
Broccoli has a huge family of varieties waiting to be discovered (and eaten!). Read on to learn about the unique qualities of each type of broccoli – and find out how to grow, prepare and enjoy all of them.
Whether you have acquired the taste for broccoli or you are a reluctant but dedicated consumer of all vegetables, you will be fascinated by the diversity of this crunchy green superfood.
6 Interesting Facts Worth Knowing About Broccoli
- Broccoli (Brassica oleracea italica) is a member of the cruciferous or Brassica vegetable family, which includes cabbage, cauliflower, kale, Bok choy, Brussels sprouts and the mustard plant.
- Broccoli is not a naturally occurring plant. The ancient Tuscans created it through decades of crop selective breeding of the original Brassica oleracea (wild cabbage or mustard) plant.
- Broccoli has been cultivated and treasured as a nutritional food source since the Roman Empire. It was first introduced to England and the United States in the mid-1800s, where it was known as ‘Italian Asparagus’.
- The name broccoli is derived from the Italian plural of broccolo, which translates as ‘the flowering crest of a cabbage’.
- Today, China is the world’s largest producer of broccoli, followed by India and the United States respectively.
- While the head of a broccoli resembles a miniature tree, it is actually a single floret made up of many tiny flowers. If broccoli is not harvested, the floret will produce beautiful yellow flowers – and these are also edible!
7 Reasons To Eat More Broccoli
Broccoli is known as ‘The Crown Jewel Of Nutrition’ due to its outstanding nutritional profile and health benefits:
- Removes toxins from the body and reduces inflammation, which aids in the prevention of many diseases.
- One cup of broccoli contains more Vitamin C than an orange. This vitamin is essential for healthy skin, teeth and bones, and strengthens the immune system.
- Broccoli supports cardiovascular health in a number of ways, and studies show that its antioxidants may reduce your overall risk of a heart attack.
- Protects the eyes against macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Broccoli promotes glowing hair and skin, and enhances brain function.
- The high fiber content supports gut health and aids digestion.
- Sulforaphane (broccoli’s key compound) has been shown to protect DNA and reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Chop your broccoli and add a sprinkle of mustard powder. Allow to sit for at least 30-40 minutes before cooking. Air exposure will activate the sulforaphane in broccoli, while the mustard will increase its bioavailability (ability to be digested).
Hopefully, these remarkable facts and incredible health benefits have increased your respect and appetite for broccoli!
Now let’s take a closer look at each member of the broccoli family:
The 20 Types Of Broccoli
This list of types of broccoli is organized into 4 main categories:
- Early Season Broccoli
- Mid-season Broccoli
- Chinese Broccoli
- Specialty Broccoli
Early Season Broccoli
Early season broccoli varieties mature quickly, and they are ready to harvest within an average of 60 to 65 days. Their quick growing time means that they will still do well in early spring or late fall.
Amadeus is medium-sized broccoli with a beautiful deep blue-green color. Its florets are more compact compared to the other early-season types, with tiny beads. The intense color means that this broccoli is loaded with antioxidants.
Once the main head has been harvested, you can expect a robust side-shoot growth, which will result in more florets to enjoy.
Amadeus matures in just under 60 days. The speedy growth makes this broccoli an excellent option for early spring sowing. Amadeus also does well in summer or fall, and it has a delicious taste.
Arcadia is one of the most rugged and resilient types of broccoli. Not only does it thrive in cooler temperatures, but it is also resistant to downy mildew and head rot. Arcadia is also favored because it does not produce brown beads.
It will take about two months for Arcadia to mature, which is a little longer than its early-season cousins. This broccoli produces small, firm, uniform heads which are purplish-green.
Arcadia’s excellent cold tolerance makes it one of the best types of broccoli for fall and winter production. The plant has a strong side shoot growth once the main head has been harvested. Crunchy in texture, enjoy either raw or cooked.
Blue Wind Broccoli
Blue wind broccoli is an impressive-looking plant with blue-green florets and powdery light blue leaves that look similar to kale. The heads are relatively large, densely packed, and uniform in appearance.
Blue wind is considered as extra-early maturing broccoli, fully grown in less than 60 days. This broccoli is ideal for home gardeners. Its good side shoot production means you can harvest this vegetable all season long!
The florets are delicious when steamed or braised with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.
Calabrese broccoli is one of the varieties that you would typically find at the grocery store. This popular heirloom is named after the Italian region Calabria, where it originated.
The calabrese broccoli produces medium-sized, deep-green heads. The thick flowering stems make them look like tiny trees!
This variety is ideal for planting in the fall, as the cooler weather results in sweeter tasting florets. It usually takes 65 days to reach full maturity, with a decent side shoot growth once the central head has been harvested.
Calabrese is a firm favorite, thanks to its tender texture and mild, sweet flavor.
Di Cicco Broccoli
A home garden gem, Di Cicco broccoli is an Italian heirloom ready to harvest in as little as 50 days. The blue-green heads are small to medium in size, and they tend to grow at different rates (not ideal for commercial farming).
You can enjoy an extended harvest after removing the central head, as the plant continues to produce edible side shoots. The sweet, earthy flavor of Di Cicco pairs well with most dishes. The tender stems and leaves are also edible.
This type of broccoli was specifically bred for the Northeast of the U.S.A and Canada, where it needs to withstand harsh weather conditions. Eastern magic is exceptionally adaptable, tolerating warm, humid summers and icy cold winters.
Eastern Magic produces tall stems with large, densely packed heads with a bright blue-green color. Ready to harvest in 60 days, this broccoli is packed with flavor- buttery and nutty, with a slight tang.
Broccoli generally prefers a cooler climate, but Green Magic broccoli is specially adapted to withstand warm weather conditions. This variety is an excellent choice to plant in the late summer for a fall harvest.
Green magic is an attractive plant with smooth, medium-sized heads which tend to have a blue-green color. The plant is compact and can grow well in a container.
The central head will be ready in 60 days, and the plant will continue to produce tender side shoots. Green Magic has a delicate crunch and a rich, buttery flavor. Gently sauté and enjoy as a crunchy snack or healthy side dish.
Known for its strong tolerance to heat, Gyspy broccoli is a good choice for growing in warmer regions or for late plantings that will mature in the spring or summer. It is also resistant to downy mildew.
Gypsy broccoli has a robust root system and produces many side shoots. The smooth domed heads are a paler green, and they lack the bluish tinge typical of most broccoli varieties.
This hardy broccoli will be ready to harvest in 60 to 65 days. Gypsy florets are medium in size, crunchy and flavorful, while the shoots are small and tender.
Compared to the Early season, the Mid-season broccoli varieties take slightly longer to mature, around 65 to 80 days. This variety is typically planted in spring for a mid-summer harvest.
This type of broccoli can easily adapt to cold or hot climates and will take 60-65 days to reach full maturity. It will produce many side shoots once the central head has been removed, gifting you with an extended harvest.
Belstar is suitable for summer and fall cultivation and produces compact, medium-sized heads in a lovely blue-green shade. Lightly steam and drizzle with melted butter or cheese sauce – delicious and comforting!
Cold and warm weather are equally suited to this variety. Destiny is a dwarf plant that usually matures in 75 to 85 days. Sow in the summer for a fall harvest.
The compact plant grows upright with no side shoots. Destiny yields modestly sized, deep green heads that are smooth and round. This broccoli has a great crunch with a nutty, earthy flavor. Enjoy in a frittata, stew, or soup.
Diplomat broccoli is a hardy plant that not only thrives in colder climates but is also resistant to numerous types of mildew (mold growth). The heads are dense, dark green, and perfectly uniform in size.
Note that this variety of broccoli is not ideal for growing in hot conditions. The heat will affect its taste, making it very bitter.
You can expect to harvest Diplomat in a little over two months. Sauté, steam, or blanch the florets to enhance their sweet, mild flavor.
Express broccoli is fantastic for mid-season cultivation and takes around 75 days to fully mature. It will produce an abundance of side shoots, providing you with a lengthy harvest.
The striking bluish-green heads contain a cluster of florets with tight beads. Sow in the spring and continue to harvest its tender, tasty side shoots.
One of the firm favorites, the thick stems and heads of the Fiesta broccoli have superb flavor and texture. The plant has good disease resistance and will be ready to harvest in 70-75 days, with limited side shoot production.
As Fiesta broccoli does not tolerate warmer weather, late summer sowing is recommended to allow the plant to mature during the fall and winter. The uniform plant develops solid, well-domed heads with a deep blue-green color.
This hybrid is crunchy and deliciously sweet. Add Fiesta broccoli to pasta, stir-fry, or soup for a boost of tasty goodness.
This variety’s high cold tolerance makes it a perfect candidate for a fall and winter crop. Marathon broccoli takes a little over two months to mature, producing consistent yields of large, high-domed heads which are easy to harvest.
Marathon broccoli is medium to large, with a pretty blue-green hue. The crop is resistant to most cruciferous pests and diseases. This broccoli has a mild, pleasant taste and is suitable for steaming, frying, or baking.
You can also enjoy the greens, which continue to grow after the head has been harvested.
Waltham 29 Broccoli
Among the most famous broccoli varieties is Waltham 29. It was planted and adored by Thomas Jefferson himself! This broccoli is an heirloom, grown from seeds handed down from one generation to the next.
Waltham 29 can withstand cold temperatures and grows exceptionally well in early spring or late fall. The tall stems develop thick, blue-green heads and edible side shoots, which are extremely tasty and appealing.
Also known as Gai Lan, Kai-Lan, Chinese kale, or Flowering kale. This group of broccoli is known for its tall, thick stems, small florets, and large, flat leaves. Chinese broccoli has a pungent taste compared to other broccoli varieties.
Portuguese explorers introduced an early variety of the Brassica cabbage to Asia, where it was selectively bred and developed into Chinese Broccoli.
This hybrid is a superb choice for the home garden. Happy Rich is ready to harvest in only 55 days and produces tiny, uniform, dark-green florets that resemble baby broccoli heads.
True to its name, Happy Rich has a vigorous side shoot production that will supply a generous amount of sweet, tender florets.
Prized for its mouthwatering flavor and crisp texture, Kailaan is a must for your home garden. It will mature in roughly 60 days, bursting into beautiful deep green heads with tiny white flowers.
Kailaan does not do well in hot weather, so plan sowing in the early spring or late summer. All parts of the plant are edible, including the leaves. This broccoli has a sweet, mustard flavor. It is fantastically steamed, added to stir fry or soup.
Also known as Emerald Green or Noble Jade.
Suiho broccoli grows rapidly and it only takes around 44 days to reach full maturity. Heat tolerance is a significant characteristic of this kale/broccoli hybrid. Plant in late spring for a summer yield or mid-summer for a fall harvest.
Suiho broccoli is also resilient to disease and cooler temperatures. The plant produces thick, tender, and sweet stems, which are very similar to rappini or broccolini. It has frilly, kale-like leaves, which are also edible.
All parts of this broccoli are incredibly delicious. Roast or stir-fry Suiho with olive oil, garlic, and spices. Finish off with a generous squeeze of lemon.
Consider this group the Avant-Garde of broccoli. The artistic chef or passionate foodie adores these unique broccoli varieties! Sprouting broccoli is the most prevalent type, found at most restaurants and grocery stores.
Apollo is a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale. This sprouting broccoli takes two to three months to mature and will yield an abundance of delicious florets and tender side shoots. The plant requires ample space for its robust growth.
Apollo is better suited for colder climates, as higher temperatures will result in a bitter-tasting yield. If you live in a warmer region, aim for a spring or fall production. The plant will thrive in full sun and alkaline, well-draining soil.
The Apollo florets, flower buds, and stems are flavorful and tender in texture. Its side shoots are long and delicate, similar to asparagus. Finely chop and enjoy all parts of Apollo in a hearty pasta, stir-fry, or stew.
Also known as baby broccoli, tender stem broccoli, brokali, or poor man’s asparagus.
Delicate, tender, and cute, Broccolini is a fairly recent hybrid cross between European broccoli and Chinese broccoli (Gai Lan).
Broccolini produces long, slim, and tender stems with small florets. The entire plant is edible, including the crinkled green leaves. This variety is milder and sweeter than your average broccoli, with a slightly peppery bite.
Consider adding this easy-to-grow plant to your vegetable garden since it is significantly more expensive than regular broccoli in the supermarket. Although it is a cool-weather crop, broccolini is sensitive to extreme temperatures and frost.
Simply roast, steam, or sauté broccolini with garlic, olive oil, and spices. Grill until slightly charred and enjoy as an appetizer, dipped in tzatziki or hummus. It also makes a great addition to salads, pizza, or pasta dishes.
Also known as Roman Cauliflower.
This ancient Italian heirloom is truly remarkable! Its origins can be traced back to the 15th century Tuscany region of Romanesco, where it was selectively bred.
Romanesco looks like a geometric piece of artwork – or even something from outer space! The plant produces spiraled lime-green heads, which form a fractal pattern (a detailed, repetitive pattern).
Romanesco is resilient to frost and thrives in cooler climates, and may not do well in very warm conditions. It will take approximately 75 days to mature, and the plant can be pulled after harvesting as it will not form side shoots.
This variety has a delicate flavor and fine texture, very similar to cauliflower. Cooked Romanesco has a delightfully sweet and nutty flavor, perfect for pasta, nourish bowls, and soups. The florets can be eaten raw in a salad.
Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Also known as Santee Broccoli.
With its striking appearance, purple sprouting broccoli makes a fine addition to a gourmet meal!
Despite its beauty, this broccoli variety is prized for its rapid growth and high yields. Purple sprouting broccoli will taste bitter if produced in warm weather, so growing during late fall or winter is best.
This showstopping heirloom matures within 80 to 90 days, producing a hefty yield of small, purple florets with tender green stems. It will continue to make many edible side shoots once the central head is harvested.
Purple sprouting broccoli gets its unique color from the antioxidant proanthocyanidin. This powerful polyphenol strengthens the immune system and promotes good circulation and glowing skin.
The florets will turn green during cooking, with a slightly sweet, peppery flavor. The stalks and leaves are crunchy but tender, with a mustardy taste.
Prepare a gorgeous and appetizing side dish in minutes: Coat the broccoli with olive oil, add crushed garlic, salt, and pepper. Top with lots of parmesan cheese and roast at high heat, until the broccoli is crispy and the cheese has melted.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Broccoli Rabe Part Of The Broccoli Family?
No, broccoli rabe is not a type of broccoli. It is a vegetable of its own.
Also known as rapini, broccoli rabe is a green cruciferous vegetable, part of the Brassicaceae family. Despite its similarities to broccoli, it is actually closely related to turnips!
Broccoli rabe and turnips are members of the same subspecies, brassica rapa, while broccoli is from the brassica oleracea subspecies.
Why Does Broccoli Taste Bitter?
Here are a few reasons why you may find broccoli one very bitter pill to swallow:
Broccoli is generally a cool-weather crop that prefers cold air and soil conditions. Warmer weather, drought, or frost may cause the broccoli to ‘bolt’ and flower, which gives it a bitter taste.
Bolting is the plant’s natural survival mechanism, where it reacts to environmental stress. The plant produces seeds as quickly as possible to ensure the next generation of broccoli.
Once the broccoli has fully matured, it is ready to reproduce. If you miss out on the harvesting period the plant will bolt and flower, which triggers the bitterness you may experience.
The ideal time to harvest broccoli is when the heads are bright, deep green with tightly packed buds. If the broccoli starts to turn yellow, harvest immediately.
Overcooking will break down the broccoli and deplete its nutrition, texture, and taste.
Blame Your DNA
Research shows that your genetic disposition may influence your response to broccoli’s bitter taste. You may have a specific gene that classifies you as a ‘super taster’ – extra sensitive to the bitter compounds found in broccoli.
What Are Broccoli Sprouts?
An increasingly popular health food, broccoli sprouts are the tiny green shoots that emerge from a germinated broccoli seed. They are basically 3-to-5-day old baby broccoli plants. These little gems look like microgreens or alfalfa sprouts.
Broccoli sprouts are prized for their incredible health benefits. They are a rich source of Vitamins A and C, fiber, and sulforaphane – a powerful nutrient with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
The sprouts are small and delicate, with a nutty and slightly spicy flavor – similar to radishes. They are typically consumed raw, added to salads, sandwiches, or cooked meals to boost nutrition, texture, and crunch.
Who knew the world of broccoli could be so vast, fascinating, and rich in history? There are so many varieties to choose from, each with its unique charm.
What types of broccoli are you eager to plant and enjoy?
World Atlas: Countries Growing the Most Broccoli and Cauliflower
Healthline: Benefits of Broccoli
Gardening Chores: Types of Broccoli
Live Science: Why Some Hate Broccoli
Home Perch: Types of Broccoli
Grow It Organically: Broccoli Varieties
Vegetarians In Paradise: Broccoli: The Crown Jewel of Nutrition