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close up picture of calabrese broccoli florets close up picture of calabrese broccoli florets

Broccoli

Importance of Broccoli to Oregon

Oregon ranks fifth in vegetable production in the United States. One of the vegetables grown in the state is broccoli. There are 247 farms in Oregon that grow broccoli. It is important to the state even though we don’t grow as much of it as we do many other crops. Oregon is one of the top broccoli-growing states. There are about 1,400 acres of broccoli grown. Over 1,000 acres of that is for processing. This means it is not being sold fresh.1

rows of heads of cabbage
Image by Julio César García from Pixabay

History of Broccoli

Broccoli is a cultivar of wild cabbage, which is native to the Mediterranean and was domesticated into different foods we eat today. Wild cabbage was bred into many cultivars including broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts.

Cultivating broccoli can be traced back to Italy in ancient Roman times. It was first taken to England in 1720. Broccoli was brought to America by Italians in the 1900s and started being grown in large amounts in California in the 1920s. The United States grows the most broccoli out of any country. 

 

Broccoli Varieties

Broccoli comes from a big family and there are many different types and varieties. Some varieties are liked because their florets are good. Those are the tiny flowers we eat. Other varieties have better leaves than florets and those are what are eaten.
closeup picture of calabrese broccoli

Calabrese Broccoli

Calabrese broccoli is the most common type of broccoli grown in the United States. It has a large green head and thick stalk. The stalk has many florets, which look like little trees. This is the popular kind sold in the grocery store. It’s what most people think of as broccoli. 

broccoli rabe leaves bunched up

Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli rabe has thinner stalks and a stronger flavor than the calabrese. It is often used in Italian cuisine. Broccoli rabe is related to turnips. The leaves of broccoli rabe are often used in cooking. 

broccolini in a bowl with fresh black peppercorns being ground onto it

Broccolini

Broccolini is also referred to as baby broccoli. It is a cross between calabrese broccoli and Chinese broccoli. It has a long, slender stalk and small buds that look like a calabrese broccoli floret. Broccolini has a sweeter taste than calabrese broccoli.

 

 

head of romanesco broccoli surrounded by its leaves

Romanesco Broccoli

Romanesco broccoli is a bright green color and is related to traditional broccoli and cauliflower. The florets grow in a spiral pattern. It can be prepared like broccoli or cauliflower and has a similar taste.2

close up of broccoli florets
Image by PDPics from Pixabay

Life Cycle of Broccoli

Broccoli is usually transplanted into fields as a start, not a seed. It’s a few weeks old by then. Planting typically happens in the spring after winter frosts are over. The soil can’t be too cold. Broccoli is a cool-season crop and does not like extreme heat.  

Broccoli takes around two months to grow large enough to harvest and eat. Spring plantings will usually be ready for harvest in June. Broccoli can bolt and create flowers and seeds if it isn’t harvested in time.

Broccoli Harvest

Broccoli is ready for harvest when the head is firm and full size. It should be harvested before there are any yellow petals. Most broccoli heads are about 6 inches wide when harvested. Broccoli is all harvested by hand. It can be a difficult job. Once broccoli is ready, workers cut the head off of the plant with a knife. Broccoli stems are cut about 6 inches long. Once the head is cut, broccoli is sorted and put into a truck. Then it is taken to a processing facility where it is kept cool until being processed or sent to market.3

 

broccoli field being harvested by hand
Image by NT Franklin from Pixabay

Pests and Diseases

Many different diseases and insects can damage broccoli. Some pests hurt the leaves and flowers of the broccoli. Others can cause issues in the soil.
close up of alternaria leaf spot on a leaf

Alternaria Leaf Spot

Alternaria is a fungal disease that causes yellow spots on the leaves. These spots show up in a round shape and become brittle and crack. They can become black masses of spores. This fungal disease is worse during warm and rainy weather conditions.4

picture of enlarged roots compared to normal sized roots

Clubroot

Clubroot is caused by a microorganism that can live in the soil. It’s so tiny that it can only be seen by a microscope. It can last up to 18 years in the soil and the disease spreads when the soil moves. Clubroot can cause the broccoli roots to be 5 to 6 inches wide. The big roots don’t take up water and minerals from the soil as well as healthy roots. It can kill small broccoli plants.5

closeup of a flea beetle

Flea beetle

Flea beetles are tiny insects that are only 1.5 to 3 millimeters in length. One millimeter is the thickness of one penny. They are dark colored and jump around. Flea beetles eat small holes in the leaves. Young plants and seedlings are damaged the most by these insects. Plants that are eaten by flea beetles don’t grow as well.6

cluster of cabbage aphids on a leaf on cabbage

Cabbage Aphid

Cabbage Aphids are a serious concern in broccoli in the Willamette Valley. They form clusters and suck the sap out of leaves. This causes the leaves to curl and can stunt the growth of the plant. If these aphids are found in harvested broccoli, all of the broccoli might not get to be sold.7

Uses for Broccoli

Broccoli is full of vitamins and minerals. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, calcium, and iron. It can be enjoyed raw, roasted, steamed, and more. Broccoli is a good addition to soups and salads. Most Americans eat about 6 pounds of broccoli each year.
cooked chicken, lemon wedges, and broccoli
Image by zuzyusa from Pixabay
Meals with Broccoli

veggie tray with broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, tomatoes, snap peas, and ranch dips
Image by Geoff Peters on Flickr
Snacks with Broccoli

Fun Facts

  • The name broccoli originated from the Italian word broccolo which means “flowering crest of a cabbage”
  • The head of broccoli is composed of flower buds
  • Broccoli is a good source of fiber and potassium
  • Broccoli is part of the mustard family

Vocabulary Terms

Produce flowers and seeds.

A swelling on a plant that can grow into new parts, like leaves or a flower.

Plants that do well in cool climates.

A variety of plant that has been selectively bred for desired characteristics.

To tame. 

A small flower. 

The cluster of flowers that eat and think of when we think of broccoli.

A life form so small that it can only be seen with a microscope.

To handle, treat, or change something. This could be cutting, freezing, and more.

A tiny reproductive body made up of one or more cells, produced by certain animals and plants.

The main stem of a plant.

 Plants that were started as a seed in a greenhouse. 

The main part of a plant that grows up from the ground and supports the branches, leaves, flowers, or fruits that may grow from it.

To pull up and plant again in another place.

Related Resources and Sources


       1USDA NASS. “Census of Agriculture 2017 Oregon State and County Data.” April 2019. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/AgCensus/2017/Full_Report/Volume_1,_Chapter_1_State_Level/Oregon/orv1.pdf
       2Epic Gardening. “27 Types of Broccoli You Should Grow.” October 2019. https://www.epicgardening.com/types-of-broccoli/.
       3Penn State. “Broccoli Production.” June 2005. https://extension.psu.edu/broccoli-production
       4PNW Pest Management Handbooks. “Broccoli (Brassica oleracea)-Black Spot (Leaf, Stem, or Pod Spots).” Accessed December 2021. https://pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/host-disease/broccoli-brassica-oleracea-black-spot-leaf-stem-pod-spots
       5PNW Pest Management Handbooks. “Broccoli (Brassica oleracea)-Clubroot.” Accessed December 2021. https://pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/host-disease/broccoli-brassica-oleracea-clubroot
       6PNW Pest Management Handbooks. “Broccoli, Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower-Flea beetle.” Accessed December 2021. https://pnwhandbooks.org/insect/vegetable/vegetable-pests/hosts-pests/broccoli-brussels-sprout-cabbage-cauliflower-flea-beetle
       7Oregon State University. “Cabbage Aphid & Green Peach Aphid.” Accessed December 2021. https://horticulture.oregonstate.edu/oregon-vegetables/cabbage-aphid-green-peach-aphid
       8Booth, Stephanie. “Health Benefits of Broccoli.” WebMD. June 2021. https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/health-benefits-broccoli