Broccoli means 'little sprouts' in Italian. It's part of the Brassica family of vegetables which includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoflower, Asian varieties of cabbage and broccoli, turnips and swedes.
Broccoli is the star of the brassicas, and it has certainly received the most research and media attention. The main reason it was chosen for research was because it was so popular and widely eaten. Most of this research relates to the discovery that the compounds that give these vegetables a distinctive mustardy taste also have strong health benefits. The research has focused on their ability to protect against various cancers. In addition to these ‘mustardy’ compounds, many brassicas contain other phytochemicals that can help prevent chronic disease. Many brassicas also have antioxidant activity.
The World Cancer Research Fund has concluded that diets rich in brassicas probably protected specifically against cancers of the colon, rectum and thyroid and when part of a diet rich in other types of vegetables, generally against other kinds of cancers too.
Sprouting broccoli or calabrese is the most popular variety which we commonly refer to simply as broccoli. It has dark bluish green heads with firm stalks which snap easily
Purple broccoli tends to have smaller heads with a deep purple tinge, otherwise it is identical to sprouting broccoli.
Romanesco broccoli is a variety which has light green clusters of heads that are pointed and look a bit like coral. Supply is limited.
Chinese broccoli - also known as Chinese sprouting broccoli, Chinese kale (gaai laan): has long green stems (about 2 cm in diameter and 20 cm long), white flowers and green leaves which have a white haze on them. The flowers should be in bud rather than in full bloom.
Broccolini is a natural cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli (gaai lan) and has a long slender stem topped with small flowering buds that resemble a cross between broccoli florets and an asparagus tip.
Serving size: 1/2 cup, chopped - 82g
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Source: The Concise New Zealand Food Composition Tables, 8th Edition, Plant & Food Research