Development of cabbages with large heads of flowers was by Italian
farmers, broccoli probably from Roman times and Cauliflower during the
Renaisance. Today they are grown through much of the temperate world, with
cauliflower particularly favored in India.
Most cabbages have small clusters of flowers on fleshy stems, but plant breeders, starting in Roman times, have coaxed some into producing huge densely packed flower heads which are highly edible when immature. If they are allowed to mature and the flowers open they become bitter. The flowers in the main head are sterile, but if left to mature the stem will sprout small flower heads that are fertile and produce seeds.Varieties
[Brassicaceae Capparis spinosa ]
The caper bush grows semi-wild all around the Mediterranean (though it
skips a few regions in North Africa). Flower buds are salted and pickled
for use as a tart ingredient in many recipes from the region. Berries are
also used pickled and are well thought of, but not much available in North
America. Leaves are used pickled or cooked in salads in the region but
are not available here. Epicures consider salted capers superior to
pickled, but those too are not much available in North America.
Photo by Lorsh contributed to the public domain.
Details and Cooking.
[Brassicaceae Tropaeolum majus]
Oddly, Nasturtiums doesn't belong to genus Nasturtium (Watercress does).
Both the flowers and leaves of this easy to grow plant are used, mostly
in salads. The leaves are fairly strongly peppery while the flowers are
milder and very decorative, being fairly large and coming in yellow,
orange and red. Nasturtium buds are sometimes pickled as a substitute
Photo © i0093.
Broccoli Calabrese -
[Broccoli; Brócolis americano (Brazil); B. Brassica
oleracea Group Italica]
Broccoli was probably known in Roman times, though it probably looked much
more like today's Chinese Broccoli. It continued to be developed
by growers to produce the large flower heads we know today. These heads are
harvested and eaten well before maturity because they will open into yellow
flowers and become mushy and bitter. Broccoli stems are also quite edible,
though older and tougher ones may need to be peeled. Like other cabbages,
broccoli is high in fiber, vitamin C, antioxidants and is suspected of
significent anticancer benefits. The photo specimens were about 5-1/2 inches
across, 5-1/2 inches long and weighed 13 ounces. Broccoli is often sold in
narrower heads and/or with longer stems.
Details and Cooking.
Baby Broccoli -
Brocolinitm, Sweet Baby Broccoli
tm, Tenderstemtm Broccoli,
Aspabroctm, Brócolis (Brazil);
Brassica oleracea, Italica Group x Alboglabra Group]
This is a hybrid between Chinese Broccoli and regular Calabrese broccoli, It was produced by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohama, Japan, under the name "Aspabroc". It is now marketed under a number of trademarked names. Oddly, in Brazil this is the normal broccoli, with our regular Calabrese broccoli called brócolis americano and sold at a higher price.
This broccoli can now be found in most well stocked supermarkets in
North America, sold in bunches of less than 1/2 pound at yuppified
prices (around US $7.00 per pound). It can easily be told from other
thin stemmed varieties by it's almost total lack of leaves. The stems
are reasonably tender and edible. This is a characteristic of Chinese
broccoli, but this hybrid has larger flower heads and is
less leafy. Being a hybrid of broccoli x broccoli, it tastes pretty
much like broccoli, but I'm sticking with regular broccoli and Chinese
broccoli both of which I can buy for well under US $1.00 per pound.
Broccoli Calabrese - Heirloom
- [B. Brassica oleracea Group Italica]
This leafy, small headed variety is probably similar to those known in Roman times. The stems are thin and quite tender so the whole bunch can be used. These were purchased from a specialty grower in Southern California who does a lot of business in greens.
Actually, with some
heading heirloom types are, once the central head is harvested, the
plants are knocked down. They then send up plenty of side sprouts
similar to these. The side sprouts are generally enjoyed by the growers
and do not reach the markets.
Brocciflower - [Brassica
oleracea Group ????]
[Brassica oleracea Group Botrytis??]
Is it a cauliflower or a broccoli? It's origin is uncertain so plant
geneticists aren't sure. One thing is certain, it's not a cross between a
cauliflower and a broccoli because the two are sexually imcompatible (see
Brocciflower). The "curd" is
medium green, a bit looser than regular cauliflower and it's a bit
stemmier. The photo specimen was 6 inches across and weighed 1 pound 4-1/2
ounces. Without leaves and their stems it weighed 13 ounces (63% yield).
Taste is considered somewhat lighter and sweeter than regular cauliflower
but it's also much easier to overcook.
[Brassica oleracea Group Botrytis]
Purple Cauliflower -
[Brassica oleracea Group Italica]
Romanesco Cauliflower -
[Fractal Broccoli; Chou Romanesco (French); Broccolo romanesco,
Cavolo romanesco (Italian); Pyramidenblumenkohl(German);
Brassica oleracea Group Botrytis]
This flowering cabbage is a stunning example of how nature encodes large amounts of genetic information in a mathematical form called fractals. The head is a cone, made up of spirals of smaller but otherwise identical spiral cones, which are in turn made up of smaller spiral cones, ad infinitum. Actually all cauliflowers are built pretty much this way, it just isn't so clear and orderly.
Although first reported from Italy in the 16th century, acceptance of
this variety has been held back by a fierce dispute as to whether it is
a broccoli or a cauliflower - but now the ISHS (International Society for
Horticultural Science) has declared from extensive analysis that it is
Cauliflower. So there, now you can eat it, if you can afford it - but
take care, it reacts very poorly to over-cooking. Steam until just tender.
Details and Cooking.
Both broccoli and cauliflower are considered highly nutritious and packed with vitamins, minerals, and a very high antioxidant content. They are considered to offer some of the most effective anti-cancer benefits known.Links