4 Vegetables That Are Actually Flowers

4 Vegetables That Are Actually Flowers

Are edible flowers vegetables? The simple answer to that is no – botanically speaking, they are regarded as flowers.

But did you know that some vegetables that you cook with are actually flowers? Broccoli, artichoke, cauliflower, and romanesco are actually the flowers of plants that we consider as vegetables.

In the culinary world, vegetables are categorized as the part of the plant which is edible and typically used in the kitchen.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s a rundown on a few vegetables that you didn’t know are actually flowers. 

Vegetables That Are Actually Flowers

1. Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica)

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica)
Image: Hans Ripa on Unsplash
Scientific NameBrassica oleracea var. italica
Common Name(s)Broccoli
FamilyBrassicaceae
NativityMediterranean
Unique CharacteristicsThick, firm stalkDense cluster of budsLarge, oblong-shaped leaves with wavy edges and deep lobes

Known for having a drastic love-hate relationship with most people, broccoli has a rich history that dates back thousands of years.

A member of the cabbage family, broccoli is a large, edible flower head with a thick, firm stalk and a dense group of buds. It also has large, oblong-shaped leaves that have wavy edges and deep lobes.

Broccoli can either be directly seeded or started from a transplant. As a cool season crop, it’s typically grown directly in fields and plant beds in areas that have moderate to cool temperatures. 

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica)
Image: SONIC on Pexels

After about 60 to 150 days, the broccoli heads or florets are ready to be harvested. When fully grown, it can reach heights of about 3.3 feet depending on the variety.

When caring for broccoli plants, it’s worth keeping in mind that they have a shallow root system. Hence, it’s generally discouraged to cultivate the soil to prevent accidental harm to the roots.

Aside from that, it’s worth highlighting that broccoli requires consistent moisture, which is why most gardeners use mulch to prevent soil temperatures from rising.

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica)
Image: Marina Helena Muller on Unsplash

Before its outsource to the rest of the world, broccoli came from the Mediterranean region. There, it was a highly regarded food source, strategically created by the ancient Italian civilization, Etruscans. 

Having said that, it’s interesting to note that broccoli is actually a man-made vegetable produced through selective breeding. 

The term, broccoli, was acquired through its Italian term, broccoli, which stands for “the flowering crest of a cabbage”. Meanwhile, in Latin, broccoli is referred to as brachium, which stands for “arm”, “branch”, or “shoot”.

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica)
Image: Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Since being brought to the rest of the world, the production of broccoli has drastically increased. This is widely attributed to the fact that it’s deemed a superfood since it has an abundance of nutritional benefits with little calories. 

These include several vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, B6, and K along with, iron, magnesium, and calcium, to name a few. Apart from that, broccoli has the most protein compared to most vegetables.

Broccoli is well-loved for its versatility as an ingredient to a variety of different dishes and cuisines. It can be steamed, boiled, stir fried, or even eaten raw.

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica)
Image: Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Because broccoli is easy to grow, produces yields fast, and has a ton of health benefits, it’s no surprise that there has since been an increase of broccoli mixes that involve crosses with other vegetables.

2. Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus)

Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus)
Image: Shelley Pauls on Unsplash
Scientific NameCynara cardunculus
Common Name(s)ArtichokeGlobe artichokeFrench artichokeGreen artichoke
FamilyAsteraceae
NativityMediterranean
Unique CharacteristicsThick green stemPinecone-shaped flower headThick, silver-green leathery leaves with an arching shape

Native to the Mediterranean, the artichoke goes by many names. Around the world, it’s primarily known as the globe artichoke, but in America, it’s called the french or green artichoke.

Depending on where they’re grown, they can either be herbaceous annuals or perennials. This is because their ideal environment is one that’s warm with little frost.

Despite being fast-growing plants, it takes artichokes about 2 years to flower. Meanwhile, it takes about 3 to 5 years to produce side shoots.

Nevertheless, once the artichoke reaches maturity it will only take about 85 to 100 days to reach harvest. The bud in the middle develops the quickest, followed by the buds by its sides.

Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus)
Image: Mark Stebnicki on Pexels

It’s worth noting that artichokes bear better yields when in the right growing conditions. In fact, a well looked after artichoke can produce 40 to 50 buds, at most. 

Growing artichokes are relatively easy as they effortlessly thrive in humid conditions, fertile and moist soil, along with full to partial shade.

They can grow anywhere from 4 to 7 feet tall. It has a thick, green stem that’s actually edible, too, and can be cooked along with the artichoke hearts.

Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus)
Image: Vincent Erhart on Unsplash

Artichokes are unique for their scale-like outer and inner petals, which are called bracts. The outer petals are thick, silver-green and leathery leaves that have an arching shape.

It’s often described to have a soft, buttery texture with a taste profile comparable to asparagus, hazelnuts, brussel sprouts, and almonds, among others.. 

Meanwhile, the inner bracts are purple-white and softer. Underneath lies the choke, an inedible fuzzy center that shelters the artichoke heart.

Buried underneath all of the leaves is the artichoke heart, which is notable for having a sweet, tender, and earthy flavor. 

The petals, on the other hand, have a crunchy texture. Despite also having a herbaceous earthy taste, it has a hint of nuttiness, too. 

Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus)
Image: Jonas Dücker on Unsplash

The artichoke flower head is usually harvested before it blooms. This is because they’re virtually inedible after flowering.

It’s also the richest source of nutrients, antioxidants, and minerals, especially folate and vitamin K. Artichoke is also low in fat and calories, which make them a popular guilt-free treat.

3. Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis)

Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis)
Image: Eric Prouzet on Unsplash
Scientific NameBrassica oleracea var. botrytis
Common Name(s)Cauliflower
FamilyBrassicaceae
NativityMediterraneanAsia
Unique CharacteristicsLarge flower head with a firm cluster of inflorescenceLight green-colored, oblong-shaped leaves with rounded endsThick, green, fleshy stalks

The cauliflower is another popular vegetable that you either love or hate, but is very commonly seen on grocery store shelves. Just like broccoli, cauliflowers came about through selective breeding.

Originating from the Mediterranean and Asia, the cauliflower has been grown for culinary use for decades. 

Though, it wasn’t until the 18th century that it was introduced to Northern Europe then to the United States in the 20th century.

Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis)
Image: Yasir Arafat on Unsplash

In case you didn’t notice, the cauliflower bears an uncanny resemblance to broccoli. This is because they both come from the Brassicaceae family.

Similar to broccoli, cauliflower has a large flower head with a firm cluster of inflorescence called curd. 

Commercially, white-colored cauliflower is the most popular, though there are other cultivars with different colors such as brown, purple, and orange, to name a few.

Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis)
Image: Kindel Media on Pexels

Cauliflowers also have light green-colored, oblong-shaped leaves with rounded ends. These grow to be quite large, often extending past and wrapping the curd to prevent discoloration.

It also has thick, green, fleshy stalks that grow to about 1.5 feet tall in the proper growing conditions. 

Having mentioned that, it’s important to note that cauliflower is a rather difficult vegetable to grow, primarily because it’s sensitive to temperature changes. 

As a result, gardeners with cauliflower crops often encounter problems concerning underdeveloped heads and below par curd quality.

Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis)
Image: Alesia Kozik on Pexels

It takes about 3 to 5 months to grow cauliflowers, from sowing to harvesting. They also grow best in full sun along with consistently moist, nutrient-rich soil.

It’s important to note that cauliflowers only produce one head. Hence, there’s only one chance to grow an edible crop.

Nevertheless, growing cauliflowers can be extremely rewarding given how hard it is to grow them.

Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis)
Image: Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Even though they’re difficult to grow, this doesn’t curb the demand for it. Cauliflowers are well-liked in the culinary world for its versatility as it can be eaten raw, cooked, or even pickled.

Its head is typically the only part of the cauliflower that’s consumed. Though, every bit of the cauliflower, such as its stalk and leaves, are also edible. 

4. Romanesco (Brassica oleracea)

Romanesco (Brassica oleracea)
Image: Gardener’s Path
Scientific NameBrassica oleracea
Common Name(s)Romanesco broccoliRoman cauliflowerFractal broccoliBroccoflower
FamilyBrassicaceae
NativityNaplesRome
Unique CharacteristicsBright, neon-green spiral fractal floretsBig, green, oblong-shaped leaves

Contrary to popular belief, romanesco is neither a broccoli or cauliflower. Despite being related as they’re from the same family, romanesco is botanically different.

Romanesco is distinct for its bright, neon-green hues along with its spiral, whimsical-looking spikes, also known as fractal florets, that make it look like it’s from another planet.

It’s interesting to note that the florets are actually failed flowers. Despite starting off as a normal flower bud, it’s the failed process of turning into a flower that gives its florets its signature look.

Romanesco (Brassica oleracea)
Image: Steven Lasry on Unsplash

Just like broccolis and cauliflowers, romanescos were created through a selective breeding process. 

Another similarity that these vegetables share is their large, flowering head. Romanescos also have big, green, oblong-shaped leaves that engulf the head.

When growing this head-turning vegetable, it’s important to note that they can reach a span of about 2 feet wide in diameter and 3 feet in height. Hence, it’s important to ensure sufficient space for optimal growth as romanescos are nutrient-hungry plants.

Having mentioned that, make certain that there’s enough well-rotted manure and organic material in the soil to improve fertility. 

As a cool-season plant, they have a tendency to prematurely bolt when exposed to high temperatures. So, it’s vital that you plan your sowing and harvesting schedule according to your area’s average temperature.

It’s typically recommended that you start your romanesco indoors for about 4 to 6 weeks. Once transplanted, it should only take about 75 to 100 days after until your romanesco is ready to be harvested. 

Romanesco (Brassica oleracea)
Image: Farm Fresh To You

It’s interesting to note that all parts of the romanesco plant, from its stalks to its head, are completely edible.

Despite often being a tad more expensive than its counterparts, romanesco is typically prepared the same way as broccoli and cauliflower. 

As for its taste, it’s noted to be more flavorful, specifically a tad more earthy, crunchy, and nutty. Because of this, it is most popularly added to savory and salty dishes.

FAQs

Can flowers also be vegetables?

While some flowers are edible and can be used for culinary use, they’re still botanically considered flowers and not vegetables.

What are the uses of flower vegetables?

Flower vegetables are primarily used for cooking as they add a depth of color and flavor to any dish. There are a variety of ways that you can use these in the kitchen:

•Baked
•Grilled
•Sauteed
•Stir fried

Are edible flowers healthier than flower vegetables?

While edible flowers have nutritional value, they aren’t as beneficial to one’s health as flower vegetables. They don’t contain as many nutrients and minerals.

Do flower vegetables have carbs?

Flower vegetables typically contain less fats, carbs, and calories than other vegetables.
This is primarily because they have higher fiber contents, which decreases the amount of  net carbs.

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