Where Does Broccoli Grow?

This is a close look at a piece of broccoli being harvested.

Have you ever looked at your serving of food and wondered where all this scrumptiously delicious food came from? Or happily, munched through a plateful of cheesy broccoli and pondered if you could successfully grow broccoli?

Broccoli is an artificial cultivar of Brassica oleracea initially grown in Italy. Broccoli grows best in well-drained fertile soils placed in full sun.

Broccoli is best planted with companion plants that protect it from garden pests and enhance its flavor profile. The whole broccoli plant is edible.

Growing your own food is a wholesome adventure that allows you to take pride in every meal served. The key to successfully growing broccoli is knowing the best places to plant it, nurture it, and then harvest the edible portions of the plant.

Which Country Created Broccoli?

There are different types of edible plants bearing the name “broccoli,” but the most commonly eaten in the USA is sprouting broccoli, also known as Calabrese broccoli (Brassica oleracea italica).

The second group of broccoli is heading broccoli which is a misnomer as heading broccoli is a type of overwintering cauliflower (Brassica oleracea botrytis) and not a broccoli plant. The third type of broccoli is the broccoli rabe (Brassica rapa).

Although edible, broccoli rabe does not produce the typical broccoli head seen in sprouting broccoli; broccoli rabeis used as a greens crop.

Early civilizations primarily relied on native plants and fruit to supplement their diets. It is possible to find many edible plants growing wild in their native countries, even in modern times.

Unlike these wild-growing plants, sprouting broccoli cannot be found in the wild and instead is a testament to humankind’s ingenuity and manipulative brilliance in modifying plants to create edible cultivars.

An ancient civilization living in the Tuscany region, Etruscans acquired a low-growing weed-like wild plant called Brassica oleracea.

Known for their horticultural genius, Etruscans used selective breeding to create cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, and kale from the original plant Brassica oleracea.

Brassica oleracea is a wild cabbage that grows in the limestone outcroppings common to the coastal regions of Mediterranean countries.

The Etruscans used the biennial plant’s natural ability to store resources in its leaves and flowers to transform it into an edible food crop. Wild Brassica oleracea can still be found in the limestone outcroppings of coastal regions in Italy.

Do Any Types of Broccoli Plants Grow in the Wild?

Unlike sprouting broccoli and heading broccoli which is artificial cultivars and thus impossible to find in the wild, broccoli rabe is a wild-growing herb native to the Mediterranean.

Some scholars would argue against the classification of broccoli rabe as a true broccoli plant, as it is has a closer relationship to turnips than the cultivars of Brassica oleracea.

Where is the Best Place to Plant Sprouting Broccoli?

Broccoli is a relatively straightforward vegetable to grow in home gardens and prefers to be planted in full sun.

Broccoli requires well-drained soils that have been enriched with generous quantities of organic matter.

The soil should demonstrate good water-holding capabilities, i.e., sandy soils which drain too quickly will need additional irrigation to support the healthy growth of broccoli plants. The soil should have a firm, springy texture and a pH between 6.5 to 7.5.

Broccoli does not enjoy warm weather and tends to grow best in cool climates, in which daytime temperatures do not exceed 75° Fahrenheit (24° Celsius). Broccoli is a biennial plant producing two harvests per year: spring/early summer and fall.

What are the Best Companion Plants for Sprouting Broccoli?

The most successful food plot gardeners have learned how to use strategic companion planting to enhance their broccoli plants’ growth, desirable characteristics, and protection.

Companion planting is the practice of intermingling different plant species in the same vegetable garden to improve the plants’ flavor profile, offer pest protection, and ensure that plants do not compete for the same resources.

Broccoli is generally a good neighbor and can be a suitable companion for most other types of edible plants. However, there is some debate on its suitability as a neighbor to other calcium-dependent plants.

While planting other cruciferous vegetables amongst your broccoli plants will simplify your vegetable bed management and watering schedule, this does place a heavy demand on the soil’s nutrient profile.

All of these plants, including broccoli, require large amounts of calcium to thrive, and as such, the soil will require added calcium, e.g., bone meal or other calcium-rich additives. 

Plants that will not compete with broccoli for calcium are beets, nasturtium, and marigolds.

Read more here: How to Wash Broccoli | Broccoli vs. Green Beans | How to Store Broccoli | Types of Broccoli | Cauliflower vs. Broccoli

Companion Plants which Improve the Flavor of Broccoli

Some gardeners claim that the broccoli grown amongst celery, potatoes, and onions has a more nuanced rich flavor than broccoli grown in other locations.

Experienced gardeners tend to avoid planting potatoes with other vegetables. Potatoes are notorious nutrient-hogs that don’t play well with most other plants.

Broccoli is one of the few edible plants that can hold its own against the dominant potato and, in fact, thrives in the company of the typically hostile plant.

Aromatic Herbs Provide Pest-Protection for Broccoli

Aromatic herbs are often planted as dual-purpose plants:

  1. The aromatic herbs are popular companion plants to sprouting broccoli
  2. The herbs are popular flavorants and garnishes in many dishes

The herbs’ pungent aromas act as natural pest repellents, deterring common garden pests from snacking on the delicate plants. These plants generously extend their protection to neighboring plants, e.g., broccoli.

The best aromatic herbs for companion planting with broccoli are:

  1. Dill
  2. Thyme
  3. Garlic
  4. Rosemary
  5. Mint
  6. Basil

Other plants which go well with broccoli are cucumber, swiss chard, shallots, spinach, lettuce, and radishes. However, the reasons for these plants being good broccoli neighbors are not yet fully understood.

What Part of Sprouting Broccoli is Edible?

Traditionally the tightly packed broccoli heads have been the most heavily harvested parts of the plant.

However, with the zero-food waste ethos many people have adopted, broccoli stalks and leaves have gained popularity in the kitchen as they are incorporated into highly nutritious flavourful meals.

Broccoli has a herbaceous, earthy flavor with a slightly bitter undertone; Broccoli’s flavor is a love it or leaves it flavor; some people adore the taste of the plant while others revile it as a hellish inclusion in any dish!

Regardless of your personal feelings about broccoli, this plant is a potent vegetable with numerous health benefits. Packed with antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins; broccoli is a superfood that is:

  1. Good for your heart
  2. Is anti-carcinogenic (i.e., protects against cancer)
  3. Improves eye health
  4. Aids in correcting hormonal imbalances
  5. Supports the immune system

Conclusion

People looking for wild sprouting broccoli are bound to be disappointed, as artificial cultivar broccoli is exclusively grown in home gardens, vegetable plots, and commercial farms.

Broccoli grows best in cool climates with rich, fertile, well-drained soil surrounded by companion plants that enhance its growth and flavor. As a biennial plant, broccoli is harvested in early summer and fall.

Although the entire plant is edible, the most commonly eaten part of the broccoli is the tightly clustered broccoli head. The leaves and stalks of broccoli are gaining popularity due to the zero-food waste movement.

Sources:

Britannica: Broccoli

Business Insider: Broccoli, Kale, Brussels Sprouts, All the Same Plant

Penn State University: Broccoli Production

The Spruce Eats: Broccoli History

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