Broccoli 101: Get to Know One of the Most Popular Veggies in Town

Broccoli 101: Get to Know One of the Most Popular Veggies in Town

Most of us grew to believe that vegetables are the most natural type of food that we can eat. 

But did you know that most of the fruits and vegetables that we know today are man-made? Yes, you read that right!

Does this mean they are less healthy because they are man-made? Let’s take a look at the case of broccoli, a man-made vegetable. 

Is broccoli man-made or natural?

Is broccoli man-made or natural
Image: Inquirer USA

Broccoli is a man-made invention that came from a wild cabbage plant known as Brassica oleracea

Through selective breeding, farmers bred the offspring of this cabbage plant to achieve a larger and sweeter taste which later became a new plant variant – the broccoli.

This edible cruciferous vegetable has become a staple ingredient in recipes for our dinner tables. It has proven itself to be versatile to keep meals healthy but still tasty. 

Yes, it’s true – that green veggie your parents used to torment you with when all you wanted was a big plate of mac ‘n cheese is actually a man-made experiment! Now tell your parents this over dinner later and see how they react.

How was the first broccoli created?

How was the first broccoli created
Image: Britannica

Broccoli came from a wild cabbage plant called Brassica oleracea. This plant was prevalent in the cold areas of the European and Atlantic region

Broccoli existed for more than 2,000 years. The first of its kind was grown in Italy during the Roman Empire. 

Fun fact: The word “broccoli” came from the Italian word “broccolo”, which means the “flowering crest of a cabbage”. Roman farmers also referred to broccoli as the “five green fingers of Jupiter.”

The first broccoli was created through a process called selective breeding or artificial selection. The goal was to turn the wild cabbage plant Brassica oleracea into a sweeter taste that was more palatable and edible for people.

Selective breeding involves the filtering of the best produce with desired characteristics to be propagated. It is also primarily used to produce pest-resistant, disease-resistant, and even climate-resistant varieties of plants. 

In the case of broccoli, offspring of Brassica oleracea, which grew to be larger and sweeter than the rest, were replanted to obtain the same quality of crops in the future. 

This process of selection and reinforcement continued for years until a new variant was created – broccoli.

Later on, broccoli was replanted in America, the Mediterranean, and cold-climate regions around the world.

Is broccoli a genetically-modified organism?

Is broccoli a genetically-modified organism
Image: Nature of Home

Albeit man-made, broccoli is not a genetically modified organism (GMO). 

Broccoli was never a product of a lab experiment that included a forced modification of a plant’s DNA.

On the contrary, brocolli’s DNA was naturally modified through grafting, layering, or cutting for selective breeding. 

Broccoli is also not a type of hybrid food. Hybrid food involves cross-breeding two different species of a plant. 

Broccoli only came from one mother plant – Brassica oleracea – and was created through selective breeding. 

But, there is hybrid food that came from broccoli, such as romanesco and broccolini. For instance, broccolini is a combination of the genes of Chinese and original broccoli. 

Is broccoli good even if it is artificial?

Is broccoli good even if it is artificial
Image: The Harvest Kitchen

Broccoli is a healthy vegetable and a superfood. Selective breeding helped maintain its best features that enabled it to retain more vitamins and nutrients. 

Here is a quick run-down of the benefits of eating broccoli:

  • Great for gut health: Broccoli is rich in fiber and this boosts gut health, helps assist in digestion, and aids in weight loss. A diet-fad favorite, broccoli only has 31 calories per cup. 
  • Good source of vitamins and minerals: Broccoli is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It has vitamin C which helps in the development and repair of body tissues and boosts one’s immunity.; and Vitamin K1, which helps with blood clotting problems and strengthens bone health.
  • Keeps the blood healthy: Broccoli is also filled with potassium which helps lower cholesterol levels and prevents heart diseases, while its iron components help maintain the regular transport of oxygen in red blood cells. 
  • Prevents cancer: Broccoli contains sulforaphane – a plant compound that protects against cancers. In addition, it is filled with isothiocyanate, which helps reduce oxidative stress that usually causes cancer. 

Studies also show that the consumption of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli reduces the risk of breast, pancreatic, breast, gastric, and colorectal cancers. 

All these health benefits show that the man-made origins of broccoli only brought about its best and healthiest version for our daily consumption.

Broccoli can be eaten raw or cooked. But studies show that steaming broccoli provides maximum health benefits. 

Can you grow broccoli at home?

Can you grow broccoli at home
Image: Bonnie Plants

We can grow broccoli in our backyards. 

Here are tips on how to grow broccoli in the comfort of your own home:

  1. Plant your broccoli in the summer. Since broccoli generally thrives in cool temperatures, between 20 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 to 23 degrees Celsius), planting must begin early to late summer. The goal is to make the broccoli heads mature before high temperatures start to harvest healthy crops later on. 
  2. Place broccoli seeds in a pot. Begin by planting the broccoli seeds half an inch deep in a pot. This is to make space since broccolis tend to grow wide and deep. 
  3. Keep the soil healthy. The soil bed must be moist and fertile. The soil pH level must ideally be between 6.0 and 7.0. Regularly prepare a compost pit to make sure the soil transports all the necessary nutrients to the plant. 
  4. Aim for the right amount of sunlight. Place the broccoli plant pot where it gets sunlight from 6 to 8 hours per day. 
  5. Protect the broccoli plant. Keep the broccoli plant weed free by hand and not through herbicides. 
  6. Harvest broccoli in the morning. Make a slanted cut on the stalk to allow water to slide. The side shoots will continue to develop after the main head gets harvested. 
  7. Store broccoli produce properly. Broccoli can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days but they can be blanched and frozen and can last up to one year. 

What are other man-made vegetables?

What are other man-made vegetables
Image: Vox

Other man-made vegetables derived from Brassica oleracea include brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, collard, and seakale, among others.

Apart from these, there are also eggplants, corn, carrots, and tomatoes. 

Fun fact: contrary to myths, broccoli is not a genetic mutation of cauliflower. These two plants are related through the same parent plant, Brassica oleracea

Frequently Asked Questions

Is broccoli the same as a cabbage?

Broccoli and cabbage are not the same, but they were both bred from the wild cabbage plant – Brassica oleracea. 
Through selective breeding, farmers cultivated broccoli from the flower bud or stem of Brassica oleracea while cabbage came from its terminal leaf bud.

What are the most common broccoli pests?

Cabbage worms, aphids, and flea beetles usually target broccoli plants.

Cabbage worms come from the larvae of butterflies and moths and they feed on broccoli leaves. To prevent cabbage worms from affecting serious damage, you may handpick them or spray insecticides with spinosad or Bacillus thuringiensis.
Aphids, on the other hand, feed under the broccoli leaves which leaves the broccoli plant discolored. They can be warded off by spraying water or using neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Flea beetles kill seedlings which lowers the production of mature broccoli plants. Insecticides can help fight flea beetle infestation.

Is it healthy to eat broccoli every day?

Eating broccoli every day positively affects your digestion and vitamin intake. Broccoli is high in fiber and antioxidants that help regulate bowel movement. 
It is also rich in vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, and phytochemicals that help prevent cancer, heart diseases, and the growth of tumors, among others.

Why is broccoli a superfood?

Broccoli is a superfood because it is anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and rich in vitamins, fiber, and phytochemical compounds that are great for one’s overall health. 
Broccoli contains isothiocyanates that help fight cancer. 
Its anti-inflammatory properties boost immunity and strengthen cardiovascular health.
Overall, broccoli is low in calories but high in essential nutrients – vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and phytochemicals – that aid in the development of the body and protection against heart and stomach diseases. 

What diseases does broccoli prevent?

Broccoli helps prevent diabetes, cancer, and arthritis.
Due to its low glycemic index, broccoli is effective in lowering blood sugar levels in people.
It also has natural compounds like isothiocyanates and sulforaphane that help stop the formation of cancer cells in the body.
Sulforaphane likewise keeps bone cartilage healthy which prevents or slows down arthritis.

What does broccoli do to your stomach?

Broccoli is good for your digestive health as it keeps the lining of your stomach healthy. It contains natural compounds, such as indolocarbazole, that maintain the balance in your gut flora. 
Broccoli is also rich in sulforaphane which helps keep the bacteria Helicobacter pylori from attaching to the stomach wall.

Is it better to eat broccoli raw or boiled?

Broccoli is best eaten raw to consume all of its nutrients. This ensures that the vitamins and minerals are not destroyed when exposed to heat. 
Studies showed that boiling broccoli destroys up to 90 percent of its nutritional value.

What are the disadvantages of eating broccoli?

Eating raw broccoli causes excessive gas and bloating. Like other cruciferous vegetables, it contains raffinose, a type of sugar that causes the body to produce methane gas.
On the other hand, cooked broccoli reduces the production of gas as it kickstarts the breakdown process in the gut. 

Does broccoli cleanse your colon?

Broccoli helps in cleansing the colon. It contains highly soluble fiber that maintains healthy bacteria in one’s intestines and antioxidants that act as a natural colon cleanser.

How to get rid of gas from broccoli?

Taking food rich in probiotics will help reduce the gas-producing effects of broccoli. These include yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, and supplements with lactobacillus.

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