- Broccolini vs. Broccoli
- Ask the Diva: Is Broccolini as Good for You as Broccoli?
- What’s the Difference Between Broccoli and Broccolini?
- Broccoli vs. Broccolini vs. Chinese Broccoli
- What Is Broccoli?
- What is Broccolini?
- What Is Chinese Broccoli?
- The Birth of BROCCOLINI® baby broccoli
- Stir Fried Broccolini
- Noon Edition
- Pick of the Crop
- SERIES 29 | Episode 14
- How to Grow and Care for Broccolini
- Broccolini Pests and Problems
- Ways to Prepare Broccolini
- Want to learn more about growing broccolini?
- BROCCOLI BAMBINO™
- Your comments and tips
Broccolini vs. Broccoli
Ask the Diva: Is Broccolini as Good for You as Broccoli?
Q. With all the healthy benefits broccoli offers, I’ve been trying to incorporate at least one serving per day into my diet. Can I substitute broccolini for broccoli and continue to get the same health benefits?
A. You bet. Although broccolini is sometimes called “baby broccoli,” it is not really an immature version of regular broccoli, but rather a cross between broccoli and gai-lan, or Chinese broccoli. Instead of growing into large heads with thick stalks, broccolini grows in slender individual stalks, each topped by a small floret.
Although it tastes very similar to broccoli and can be prepared in the same way, broccolini is usually a bit sweeter and the stalks are more tender, which means they cook faster. Nutritionally-speaking, broccolini and broccoli are comparable; both are a great source of vitamins A, C, and K. As for all those other compounds that make broccoli so good for you, such as sulphoranes, indoles, and isothiocyanates, these are found in all cruciferous vegetables–including broccolini!
What’s the Difference Between Broccoli and Broccolini?
When a recipe calls for broccolini, you might be tempted to substitute broccoli florets that you already have in your fridge. After all, they’re pretty much the same thing—right? Wrong. Though they taste and look similar, broccoli and broccolini have a few differences that are worth noting.
Broccoli vs. Broccolini vs. Chinese Broccoli
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Broccoli’s origins can be traced back to Italy, more than 2,000 years ago. Broccolini is a much newer vegetable—it was created in 1993. Because of its resemblance to broccoli, many people assume it’s just a smaller version of the cruciferous vegetable. However, it’s actually a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli.
What Is Broccoli?
Image zoom Caitlin Bensel
Broccoli bouquet, anyone? Though it may sound strange, broccoli is basically a large, edible flower. Its florets and stalk can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes. Broccoli is a divisive vegetable—some people love it, while others think it tastes unpleasantly bitter.
The green cruciferous vegetable is often lauded as a superfood because of its high fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins K and C content.
- Broccoli Fried Rice with Kimchi Cream
- Easy Broccoli Salad
- Shaved Broccoli-Apple Salad with Tarragon Dressing and Bacon
What is Broccolini?
Image zoom Caitlin Bensel
Broccolini was developed as a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli in Japan. It looks almost identical to broccoli, but is much smaller and more delicate. Though broccoli and broccolini have very similar flavors, broccolini is slightly sweeter and could be compared to asparagus. Broccolini is high in fiber and vitamins C and A.
- Roasted Broccolini
- Panko-Crusted Broccolini
- Chicken with Broccolini and Farro-Beet Salad
What Is Chinese Broccoli?
Image zoom YinYang/Getty Images
Chinese broccoli is also known as gai lan (Cantonese) and jie lan (Mandarin). It’s a leafy green vegetable with thick stems and thick leaves that look like collards. Its flavor is similar to broccoli, but it’s slightly more pungent. Also like broccoli, Chinese broccoli is low in calories but rich in nutrients such as vitamins B6 and K.
Contrary to public opinion, broccolini is not baby broccoli — and those tiny yellow flowers are not a sign of age, they’re a sign of yumminess.
Broccolini is a vegetable in its own right, a cross between broccoli and gai lon, or Chinese kale. Those tiny yellow flowers are a sign of the vegetable’s gai lon parentage — and the gai lon is what gives this vegetable its cool peppery flavor. As for the price tag, there’s a good reason why broccolini is more expensive than broccoli. A bunch of broccoli consists of two or three stalks of broccoli, so it takes three simple cuts to harvest. A bunch of broccolini has 15 to 20 stalks. That’s a lot more work — and a lot more money.
When you bring your broccolini home, wrap it in a slightly damp paper towel and refrigerate it in a plastic bag. Cook this tasty vegetable the same way you cook asparagus. (I love it grilled or roasted.) It’s so easy, so delicious and so edible. No peeling or stalk-trimming required — you can eat the entire thing.
IN THE BINS
Fuyu persimmons: San Joaquin Valley, $1.29 to $1.59 each
Fuyus are the flat persimmons that look a bit like a squatty tomato. Eat them the way you would an apple.
Corn: Dixon and Brentwood, 25 to 50 cents each
This late-season corn is a steal. Grab them while you can. Rain and cold will bring the season to a close soon.
Iceberg lettuce: Salinas, 99 cents to $1.49 per head
You’ll see good supplies and prices until the frost arrives. As the harvest transitions south, prices will rise.
The Birth of BROCCOLINI® baby broccoli
I’m not a betting gal. But if I was, I’d venture to say that if you asked any random person on the street if they knew what BROCCOLINI® baby broccoli was, they’d say yes.
BROCCOLINI® baby broccoli – that elegantly green vegetable with the slender, edible stem, tender miniature florets and a taste sweeter than broccoli – seems like it has been in our lives forever. Not so. In fact, baby broccoli has only graced our plates for less than 20 years. So just how did a brand new vegetable go from non-existence to near-ubiquity in such a short period of time? The answer lies somewhere between an amazing product, a market hungry for something new, and some impressive marketing acumen on the part of a company called Mann Packing.
BROCCOLINI® baby broccoli harvest
Let’s rewind a bit to July, 1997. At the time, Mann’s was the world’s largest shipper of fresh broccoli. Tom Livingston, then Director of Foodservice Sales at Mann’s, began hearing buzz at the Produce Marketing Association’s Foodservice Expo of a broccoli-asparagus hybrid that chefs were clamoring for in New York City. He had never heard of such a thing, and brought it up to Joe Nucci, then the VP of Marketing. At the time, Joe laughed off the impossibility of it, but two weeks later he had some answers.
He had contacted Sakata Seed, founded in Japan in 1913 and one of the world’s major seed companies. Mann’s was one of their largest broccoli seed customers, and Sakata knew exactly what Joe was talking about with his inquiry into the new vegetable. The elusive item that the New York chefs wanted wasn’t a broccoli-asparagus hybrid, but a broccoli-Chinese kale combination that had been in development by Sakata. Using hand pollination, Sakata’s plant breeders spent seven years teasing out broccoli’s color and head of flowering buds along with Chinese kale’s tender, edible stalks.
Sakata named its new product “Asparation,” implying a connection to asparagus with the vegetable’s slim, sweet stem. A small grower in El Centro, California had been running trials for Sakata, and had sent samples to some distributors and restaurants, which was how the New York chefs had gotten a hold of it.
When Sakata sent some Asparation to Tom and Joe here at Mann’s, they understood why the chefs were so excited, and decided to throw the company’s resources into marketing it. A couple of details needed to be ironed out first, though. One: the name. To Tom and Joe, Aspration sounded like a lung disease. And two: we wanted exclusivity on the seed.
Charred BROCCOLINI® baby broccoli with Lemon and Pickled Garlic
Mann Packing had an enviable track record in introducing new broccoli products, including the first pre-cut broccoli florets for the foodservice market and Mann’s Broccoli Cole Slaw (read about Broccoli Cole Slaw’s creation here), a packaged salad that had achieved cult-like status among its admirers.
The grower in El Centro didn’t have the resources to grow and market Asparation nationally, but Mann’s did, so it was agreed that Mann’s would re-name the product and bring it to the American market while the El Centro grower would continue to grow the product in Mexico and sell it under the Asparation brand.
The strategy in introducing the new vegetable to the country began with the foodservice market – chefs in white tablecloth restaurants who could not only afford it but also bring a level of creativity to using it that the average consumer wasn’t capable of. Tom took the vegetable straight to a group of chefs at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, NY. Not only did they give us great feedback on the viability of the vegetable itself, but they helped us name it.
We had asked Mann Packing employees to submit ideas for a new name, and Tom brought with him to New York a list of twenty or so possibilities. Joe Nucci’s wife, Debbie, had come up with the name “Broccolini,” and as Tom and the CIA chefs discussed the list, it came close to being a unanimous choice. Tom returned to Salinas and declared that he had a winner. BROCCOLINI® baby broccoli was born, and we immediately applied to register the name as a trademark of Mann Packing Company.
What happened next was a whirlwind of demonstrations at food shows, visits with distributors who had the appropriate clientele and PR in foodservice publications. Once the push into foodservice was underway, the team launched a consumer press tour to educate people about the exciting new vegetable. Lorri Koster (now our Chairman and CEO) and Gina Nucci (now Director of Corporate Marketing) were in charge of that effort, and they landed coveted spots on Good Morning America and in The New York Times, Harper’s and The Washington Post, among many others. Sales started to roll.
BROCCOLINI® baby broccoli Grain Bowl
Fast forward to today. Mann Packing is still the one and only grower and supplier of Broccolini in the United States, and the vegetable continues to be a darling of chefs and consumers alike. It is currently one of the fastest-growing vegetables on restaurant menus – up nearly 19 percent in the past year, according to Technomic. Read my article here about how BROCCOLINI® baby broccoli became a new side dish at Chick Fil A.
We of course have had some bumps along the way – all produce people know that Mother Nature is the real boss, and thankfully distributors and chefs understand that too. But at the end of the day, who can refuse the “itsy-beany, teeny weeny, slender greeny Broccolini” as it was dubbed by USA Today? Not us.
Stir Fried Broccolini
Still I had the problem of how to cook it properly, so I scouted around to see how other people prepared it and basically it was very close to what I was doing. And then I turned to one of my favorite cooks, Ina Garten. I’m a huge fan of hers and have every one of her cookbooks. Ina has never let me down, so I did a bit of research to see how she prepares broccolini and discovered that she Parboils it first. Yes, it’s an extra step, but that’s how she can get it so tender. And then a quick stir fry with garlic and, Voila, it’s perfect. Thank you Ina for this and for many things.
It was worth the effort to do a bit of research for broccolini, because it always looks so beautiful on a plate, next to fish, or roasted chicken or even a steak. We eat with our eyes first, and broccolini is a vegetable that should always be included.
If you like this recipe, please leave a comment below and pin on Pinterest!
5 from 1 vote This Stir Fried Broccolini takes inspiration from a recipe by Ina Garten. The result is crisp tender deliciousness that is easy, quick and healthy. Prep Time5 mins Cook Time7 mins Total Time12 mins Course: Side Dish Cuisine: American Keyword: broccolini Servings: 2 People Calories: 101kcal Author: Pam
- 1 bunch Broccolini
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- 1/4 Tsp Salt
- 1/4 Tsp Pepper
- 1 lemon juiced
- Bring 3 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Add broccolini and cook 4-5 minutes until crisp tender. Remove from water and submerge broccolini in a large bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
- Heat a saute pan to medium high heat and add olive oil. Add garlic and cooke for 1-2 minutes. Add broccolini and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Finish with lemon juice and (optional) grated parmesan cheese.
Calories: 101kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 7g | Sodium: 316mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1500IU | Vitamin C: 79mg | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 0.7mg
While there are many edible plants that can be foraged from the wild (mushrooms, asparagus and onions among many others), broccoli isn’t one of them.
Broccoli is a human invention. It was bred out of the wild cabbage plant, Brassica oleracea . It was cultivated to have a specific taste and flavor that was more palatable to people.
Here’s how that worked. Wild cabbage has small flower buds and is a biennial. That means it only flowers every other year.
In a controlled environment, it can be forced to reproduce itself many times. When an offspring of the plant with larger, tastier buds grows, gardeners threw away the less tasty plants and started reproducing from that one.
In future generations, there were further opportunities to get plants with larger, tastier buds. And other genes that make the process easier, such as plants that have a faster growing cycle emerged.
In selecting and reinforcing the traits enjoyed by more people, humans took wild cabbage and cultivated a new kind of plant altogether, broccoli.
Brassica oleracea isn’t just the source of broccoli. Its cultivars (a word for plants that can only be produced via selective breeding) include cauliflower, kohlrabi, kale, brussels sprouts, and the cabbages found in grocery stores.
Burgess, Chuck, and Joey Williamson. “Wild Garlic & Wild Onion.” Clemson Cooperative Extension. September 2016. Accessed November 15, 2016.
Druyan, Ann and Sagan, Carl. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. New York: Random House, 1992.
Tredwell, Emma. “Brassica Oleracea (wild Cabbage).” Kew Gardens. Accessed November 14, 2016.
Pick of the Crop
SERIES 29 | Episode 14
With thousands of varieties to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when choosing the right vegetables to grow. Tino Carnevale has some tips for what to consider when making your choices. This is his checklist.
1. Grow what you like to eat
Tino’s family love broccoli, and it’s one of the best winter crops. But instead of the single-headed type, he now grows brocolette or broccolini (Brassica oleracea cv.) – a multiple-harvest type that can be repeat picked over a long time. He also likes to grow purple-sprouting broccoli, which has purple heads.
2. Grow what does well in your area
Tino had trouble growing ‘Red Russian’ kale because he found it always succumbed to powdery mildew. He now grows ‘Walking Stick’ kale (Brassica oleracea cv.), which has large sweet leaves and no mildew problems.
3. Don’t get caught up on what’s the biggest or the prettiest or the most colourful
For example, while purple basil looks great, it’s trickier to grow and not as sweet as ‘Sweet Genovese’ (Onimum basillicum cv.)
4. Grow what offers the most bang for buck
For example, instead of growing common brown onions, which are cheap to buy, try something that’s more expensive in the shops, such as shallots (Allium cepa cv.) or potato onions (Allium cepa var. aggregatum), which Tino thinks are the sweetest, best-tasting onions but are hard to find.
Broccolini is a trademarked hybrid between American standard broccoli and a Chinese broccoli called gailan. Instead of forming one large head it bears many small tender side shoots, which have a subtle sweet flavor with peppery overtones. Broccolini stems don’t have to be peeled. Some people praise broccolini for its taste and texture; others regard it as a temperature-sensitive and expensive fad crop.
How to Grow and Care for Broccolini
Broccolini, like other cole crops, prefers cool temperatures, moderately low acidity (soil pH 6.0 to 7.0), and plenty of water and nitrogen. Add a couple of inches of compost or well-rotted manure to your soil. If your soil is acidic, add a small handful of wood ashes around each broccolini transplant. Start seeds indoors and set them outside when they are 4-6 weeks old. Space transplants 24″ apart and set them 1/2″ deeper in the soil than they were in their pots. Spread grass clippings (from a lawn that’s not treated with herbicides) under them or direct seed clover after transplanting them to shade and enrich the soil and discourage weeds.
Since broccolini is a fairly new vegetable, optimal planting time is still being established. Some suggest planting as soon as the ground can be worked in spring. Others say that broccolini is cold sensitive and should not be set outside until after the last spring frost. You may want to experiment and see what works in your area. Broccolini can also be grown as a fall crop. Some say that broccolini performs less well when exposed to ‘extreme cold’ or to temperatures above 80 F.
Make sure your broccolini gets 1-2″ of water each week. You can spray plants with compost tea or diluted fish emulsion every fortnight to provide an extra nitrogen boost.
Harvest broccolini when the heads are fully formed but before they begin to flower. Cut long stems; the stem is as tasty as the florets. Leave green leaves on the plant and watch for new heads to form. You may get 3-5 sets of shoots from each plant in any given year.
Broccolini Pests and Problems
Broccolini is susceptible to the same problems as broccoli and other cole crops. To minimize pest and disease issues, don’t plant it in a place where broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale or their relatives have been grown in the last 4 years.
If your broccolini leaves curl, pucker and turn yellow, you may have an aphid or whitefly infestation. Look on the undersides of leaves for tiny soft-bodied green, brown or pink insects. Aphids can be handpicked or killed with organic insecticidal soap. Ladybugs eat aphids. Soap is the best remedy for whiteflies.
Ragged holes in leaves may be caused by the striped green caterpillars known as cabbage loopers or cabbage worms. Handpick them or spray with Bacillus thuringiensis. Slugs may also cause them. If you have a slug infestation, set water mixed with beer or yeast out in your garden in jars buried to the lip in soil. Slugs will be attracted to the smell, fall into the water and die. Many songbirds eat cabbage worms, and snakes eat slugs, so you may want to encourage birds and snakes.
Pinholes in your leaves are probably caused by flea beetles. Leaves chewed to the stem may be the work of vegetable weevils. Pyrethrum spray may control these pests. Pyrethrum is organic but toxic to bees–spray it in the evening when pollinators aren’t active.
Yellowish spots on leaves that grow white mold in wet weather indicate downy mildew. Dark patches specked with black dots on leaves and stems and wilted bluish or reddish leaves are the first warnings of black leg. Later on sunken patches girdle the stem and the whole plant topples over. If you catch either of these diseases early, try spraying an organic fungicide like copper or Bacillus subtilis. If they’re well advanced, remove and destroy (do not compost) affected plants.
Ways to Prepare Broccolini
Broccolini’s distinctive flavor is said to be strongest when it’s eaten raw. You can also cook it as you would broccoli. Put it in soups, steam it, stir-fry it alone or with carrots, peppers and mushrooms, chop it into calzone filling, or add it to your favorite casserole.
Want to learn more about growing broccolini?
Check out these helpful resources:
Broccolini from Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center
How to Plant Broccolini
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of K. B. R.
Brassica hybrid F2
Baby Broccoli is a baby broccoli with edible stems and florets. It is ideal for container growing this plant has a long harvest period and a delicious flavour. Full of vitamins and minerals, Broccoli Bambino™ is good for you too!
- Growing Tip: When the first floret appears at the plant centre and has reached the size of a 5 or 10 cent piece remove it together with the two leaves immediately below. Side shoot will mature about 6 weeks later and these should be harvested by making a cut approximately 25cm from the main stem. Additional florets will continue to develop over the next 4-6 weeks. Apply nitrogen (N) rich fertiliser during the firsr 4-6 weeks of growth only. Thereafter supply Potassium sulphate (Potash) to encourage development of florets. If growing in garden beds prepare the soil with a general purpose fertiliser. If planting in a pot use an Australian Standards potting mix and apply fertilisers at recommended rates.
- Position: Full sun
- Height / Spacing: 60-80cm. Use a 30-40cm pot or if planting in garden beds plant 30-40cm apart.
- Lifespan: Annual
- Planting Time: Autumn, Winter (Feb- Sept)
- Harvest: 12-14 weeks after planting.
- Range: Code K 100mm pots, Zest 200mm
Your comments and tips
Post a comment or question Display Newest first | Oldest first, Show comments for Australia | for all countries 15 Sep 19, Kathleen Foxwell (Australia – tropical climate) I live in Hervey Bay. I have planted Broccoli seeds. They never form a head for me to harvest. They are just leaves. How can I get them to grow the edible broccoli head? 16 Sep 19, Anon (Australia – sub-tropical climate) Broccoli is best grow in your/my area, autumn into the winter – plant seedlings or seeds early March to May. DO NOT have super rich soil. SOIL high in N will just produce a lot of leaf. I had this problem last year with cabbage and broccoli coming out of winter into spring. I won’t do that again. I have tried seeds the last 2 years. For broccoli I think the best is to just buy seedlings from Bunnings. 29 Apr 19, Lawrence Umba (Australia – tropical climate) I am a farmer from Papua New Guinea at an altitude of 1000 m above sea level. I am trying to produce Broccoli in my farm and wonder is it going to be like growing Broccoli at Australia -Tropical, or do I have to do my own trials. Thank you 29 Jul 19, Rachael (Australia – sub-tropical climate) You can plant anything using the tropical guide on this site. You get good rain and should look into companion plantings to avoid pests, Good luck 27 Apr 19, Katherine (Australia – sub-tropical climate) We live on Norfolk Island and have just bought a house with a market garden and planted our first crop of broccoli 2 weeks ago. We have noticed the leaves have white squiggly lines on them and have small holes in them. We are planning on continuing the organic gardening of the previous owners. 12 May 19, Danielle (Australia – temperate climate) Hi Katherine, the squiggly lines are from leaf miner and the holes in the leaves are from cabbage moth caterpillars. Check under the leaves for yellow eggs, and also pick off any caterpillars, i’d reccomend netting your broccoli. 06 Mar 19, Terry (Australia – temperate climate) In a 4 bed crop rotation is it safe to plant crops like brassicas in the same bed in both Autumn and Spring in the same year. 06 Mar 19, Mike (Australia – temperate climate) You can plant brassicas year after year after year if you like but then you are not doing crop rotation are you .Read up about crop rotation to what it achieves. 04 Jan 19, Patrick (New Zealand – cool/mountain climate) My broccoli has now gone to flower. Do I leave it in, or pull it out and plant more next year? Can’t find a website to tell me if I keep it or start again. Thanks. 06 Jan 19, Mike Logan (Australia – sub-tropical climate) Pull it out. It’s life cycle is ending. Showing 1 – 10 of 221 comments