27 Types of Broccoli You Should Grow

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Did you know that there are many different types of broccoli? You probably see veggies at your local grocery store or farmer’s market that look vaguely like broccoli but are leafier, skinnier, bright green, blue-green, or even look like fractals. Such variation in size and appearance also means variable growing times, leading to months of broccoli bliss.

All of these broccoli varieties and broccoli hybrids are part of the Brassica oleracea species, which also includes cabbage, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, collard greens, and others. If you’re as wild about cruciferous vegetables as I am, read on about the different types of broccoli and their unique qualities.

Calabrese Broccoli

Calabrese is what we all consider 'broccoli in our mind's eye when we hear the word
Calabrese is what we all consider ‘broccoli in our mind’s eye when we hear the word. Source: Tony Austin

The mountain of broccoli that you see at the grocery store is usually a variety of Calabrese broccoli, or typical broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica ). It’s named after Calabria, a region in southern Italy (think the toe and ankle of the Italy boot).

Calabrese broccoli forms a large central head with tight florets, aka tiny flowers. These thick, flowering stems give typical broccoli its signature look; they look like tiny trees! If you’re interested in growing this well-known variety, it grows well in zones 3-10 and is particularly cold hardy. Most Calabrese varieties continue to produce mini-tree side shoots once you have harvested the central head, so look forward to a long harvest window.

NameDays To MaturityDescriptionWhere To Buy
Blue Wind60 daysHybrid. Extra early broccoli variety produces plants with unique light blue leaves and dense heads. Harvest side shoots all season long.Buy seeds
Belstar66 daysHybrid. Compact, 16-20 inch plants with 6-8 inch, blue-green heads. Once central heads are removed, continue to harvest side shoots.Buy seeds
Waltham 2965-75 daysOpen-pollinated and grows well in Zones 3-9. Known for high productivity and lots of side shoots after the main head is harvested. Compact plants.Buy seeds
Calabrese60-90 daysOpen-pollinated heirloom. Tall, 30-36 inch plants with 5 inch dark bluish-green central heads. Plentiful side shoots.Buy seeds
Destiny89 daysHybrid. Dwarf plants, 12-18 inches, that produce rounded heads. Heat tolerant. This broccoli variety doesn’t produce side shoots.Buy seeds

Sprouting Broccoli

A delicious, sweet variety you can pick over and over again
A delicious, sweet variety you can pick over and over again. Source: ndrwfgg

Sprouting broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) is a tall, leafy, stalky plant with individual florets instead of a central head. Slightly more bitter than typical broccoli, the leaves, stalks, and florets are all edible. When searching for varieties online, you will bump into information about broccoli sprouts, which are germinated broccoli seeds grown for a few days and then added to salads and sandwiches. Sprouts are delicious but are very different from sprouting broccoli.

Sprouting broccoli is commonly planted in fall and overwintered for an early spring harvest. 6 to 8 weeks of cold temperatures (at or below 50°F/10°C ) are needed to produce florets. Overwintering might seem like a daunting commitment, but early spring harvests are so welcome after a long winter!

The main types of sprouting broccoli are purple and white. Although a vivid purple when raw, purple sprouting broccoli turns green when cooked. White sprouting broccoli has white florets and a milder, sweeter taste than the purple variety. White sprouting broccoli is more common in Britain but its popularity is increasing in the U.S.

NameDays To MaturityDescriptionWhere To Buy
Burgundy37 daysHeirloom. Purple florets and green-purple stems with fewer leaves than other varieties.Buy seeds
Santee80-115 daysHybrid. Green stems with purple florets. Plant in either early spring for a fall harvest or as a winter crop in mild areas.Buy seeds
Red Fire140 daysHybrid. Bright purple florets. Ideal variety for overwintering but will die in temperatures below 20°F/-7°C.Buy seeds
White Sprouting Broccoli220 daysOpen-pollinated. White sprouting variety. May produce fewer florets than purple varieties.Buy seeds
Burbank220 daysHybrid. White sprouting variety from Britain. Slender light green stalks with small white florets. May produce fewer florets than purple varieties.Buy seeds

Chinese Broccoli

Strikingly different from other broccoli types, these are great in a stir fry
Strikingly different from other broccoli types, these are great in a stir fry. Source: b. inxee

As its name implies, Chinese broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra) originated in China. It’s known by many other names like Chinese kale, gai lan, kailaan, and others. Chinese broccoli has very thick stems and large green leaves. It’s known to taste bitter, but soaking it in cold water before cooking reduces that quality.

Its relatively short growing time, between 35 and 50 days, makes it a great vegetable for planting in spring or summer for fall harvest, or year-round in moderate climates. Stir fry gai lan with garlic, add your favorite spicy sauce, and enjoy a kick of Vitamins C, K, A, folic acid and fiber!

NameDays To MaturityDescriptionWhere To Buy
Big Boy35-50 daysHybrid. New early variety with tender, super thick stems. Buy seeds
Crispy Blue 45 days Thick, glossy leaves and as the name suggests, crispy stalks. Vigorous plants continually produce when stalks are harvested one by one. Buy seeds
Blue Wonder 45-50 days Hybrid. Blue-green plants with tender and crispy stalks. Slow to bolt and grows well in most climates. Buy seeds
Ryokuho AKA Green Jade 45-50 days Hybrid. Early Chinese broccoli variety with 16 inch stems and smooth leaves. Great choice for disease resistance and robust growth. Buy seeds
Suiho AKA Noble Jade or Emerald Green50-55 daysHybrid. Short, thick stems grow about 14 inches tall. Plant in late spring for a summer harvest or mid-summer for a fall crop.Buy seeds

Broccoli Rabe (Rapini)

Broccoli rabe (Brassica rapa subsp. rapa) has some familiar features of broccoli but it’s actually part of the same subspecies as turnips. Also known as rapini, the green leaves are used in cooking much like turnip greens. Its small, spiky, broccoli-ish florets aren’t the focus. Rather, rapini’s slightly bitter leaves are featured in southern Italian cuisine.

Broccoli rabe grows extremely fast. Paired with its cut-and-come-again growth, you will have an all-you-can-eat buffet of tasty greens from the beginning to the end of the season.

NameDays To MaturityDescriptionWhere To Buy
Spigariello Liscia21-45 daysOpen-pollinated variety with a flavor between broccoli and kale. Harvest single leaves for cut-and-come-again growth throughout the season. More leafy and fewer buds than other varieties.Buy seeds
Quarantina25-30 daysPlentiful, slightly peppery leaves. Grows quickly and is one of the earliest rapini varieties. Grows to about 12 inches tall and does well any time of the year.Buy seeds
Sessantina Grossa35 daysLeafy blue-green leaves with larger florets than other varieties. Hardy to Zones 4-10.Buy seeds
Novantina40-45 daysSmall, loosely-clustered buds with tender leaves. Prefers cooler temperatures but will grow any time of the year in mild climates. Grows to 18-20 inches tall.Buy seeds
Maceratese50-55 daysLarge, succulent leaves and tender stems. Prefers cooler temperatures. Buy seeds

Broccolini

Broccolini exploded on the grocery scene when it was first introduced
Broccolini exploded on the grocery scene when it was first introduced. Source: cohenvandervelde

Broccolini vs broccoli rabe or baby broccoli vs Broccolini, what are the differences? While broccoli rabe is a subspecies of turnip, Broccolini (Brassica oleracea var. italica × alboglabra) is a broccoli hybrid – a cross between typical broccoli and Chinese broccoli. It is sometimes called baby broccoli, but this is only in reference to the more delicate size of its stems and florets. It has a super interesting history, which includes development over several years with hand-pollination instead of genetic engineering. The name “Broccolini” even has a trademark

A perfect combination of its parents, broccolini has long, slim stalks with small, broccoli-like florets on top. Broccolini is also known as tender stem broccoli or poor man’s asparagus. It looks a lot like broccoli rabe but tastes less bitter.

NameDays To MaturityDescriptionWhere To Buy
Broccolini Plants25-30 daysHybrid. Harvest often for continual growth.Buy plants
Atlantis33 daysHybrid. Deep green stems and florets with high yield and good flavor. Frequent harvesting encourages additional floret growth.Buy seeds
Aspabroc 50 daysHybrid. Mild and peppery flavor. Plant in spring or early summer for a quick harvest. Cut any central crown that forms to encourage additional growth.Buy seeds
Aspabroc Baby50-80 daysHybrid. Sweet and peppery. Flavor mellows with cooking.Buy seeds

Romanesco Broccoli

Broccolini exploded on the grocery scene when it was first introduced. Source: <a target="_blank" rel=
The craziest type of broccoli, romanesco looks like something out of geometry class. Source: Eric Herot

Romanesco broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. Botrytis ) is a stunning bright green broccoli cousin that naturally resembles a fractal. It’s almost too beautiful to eat! It looks like a cross between cauliflower in texture and broccoli in color, so it’s no wonder it’s also known as Roman cauliflower. 

Between its beauty and mild flavor, Romanesco is an excellent choice for home gardens in zones 3-10. If you want to grow something unique and a great dinner conversation starter, Romanesco is for you. 

For the math fans out there, the number of spirals on each head of Romanesco broccoli is a Fibonacci number! To read more about Fibonacci numbers in Romanesco and in nature, check out this article.

NameDays To MaturityDescriptionWhere To Buy
Orbit76 daysHybrid. Produces 1 pound, lime green heads. Earlier harvest than other varieties.Buy seeds
Puntoverde AKA 26-7078 daysHybrid. Grows best in areas without extreme heat. Can overwinter in mild gardening zones.Buy seeds
Veronica78 daysHybrid. Lime green with spiral points. Nuttier flavor than white cauliflower varieties.Buy seeds

If you feel daunted by the season-long investment needed to grow Calabrese type broccoli, this article is full of delicious alternatives. And now that you know how to spot different types of broccoli, you’ll start seeing them everywhere! 

Which broccoli variety are you pumped to try? Use the comments or share the article with a friend!


The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:

Erin Matas

Kevin Espiritu
Founder

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