General Information: The word broccoli means 'little sprouts' in Italian. It is part of the Cabbage family of vegetables which also includes cauliflower, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, turnips and many of the Asian greens.
Broccoli has two distinct forms. One makes a dense, white "curd" like that of cauliflower and is called "heading broccoli" or "cauliflower broccoli." The other makes a somewhat branching cluster of green flower buds atop a thick, green flower stalk two to two and a half feet tall, and smaller clusters that arise like "sprouts" from the stems at the attachments of the leaves. This form is called "sprouting broccoli."
History: Despite its antiquity, sprouting broccoli apparently was unknown in England until about 1720, when it was introduced as "sprout cauliflower" or "Italian asparagus''. "Green" broccoli, which was doubtless the sprouting form, was mentioned in an American book on gardening in 1806, but it must have been known here for many years before that.
It is surprising that such an excellent vegetable as sprouting broccoli, known for more than 2,000 years in Europe and perhaps 200 years in America, should have become popular here only in the past 25 years. Americans of Italian origin had grown it for generations in the vicinity of New York and Boston before Americans generally appreciated its attractive qualities. Since 1925 it has suddenly become an important market and home-garden plant in the United States. It is also being grown for quick-freezing.