Kale, shown here, belongs to the same plant species as broccoli: Brassica oleracea. / Courtesy Erickson Farm

Most people have a love-hate relationship with broccoli — the vegetable, as most people know, generates strong emotions. But it is nutritious and, properly prepared, delicious.

Broccoli belongs to the Brassica oleracea plant species, which also includes other cultivars such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts and collard greens.

President Thomas Jefferson grew broccoli at his plantation, Monticello, in Virginia. Broccoli is a cold-weather vegetable. / Courtesy www.almanac.com

Here are five fun facts about broccoli.

1) At least two U.S. presidents in modern history have expressed strong sentiments about broccoli. In July 2013, at the Kids’ State Dinner at the White House, President Barack Obama told the group his favorite food: broccoli. At the other extreme, President George H.W. Bush, in March 1990, complained, “I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!’’ Bush banned broccoli on Air Force One and in the White House.

2) Between 1980 and 2015, fresh broccoli consumption in the U.S. increased significantly, from 1.4 pounds per person in 1980 to 6.6 pounds in 2015 (source: www.agmrc.org).

3) Broccoli has long served as a significant food source in the world, but only fairly recently in the U.S. Broccoli has been a food since the Roman Empire, about 2,000 years ago. Although President Thomas Jefferson experimented with growing broccoli, it didn’t become a significant food source in the U.S. until immigrants from southern Italy brought it over in the 1920s.

4) How did broccoli earn its name? The English term “broccoli” comes from the Italian word broccolo, meaning “the flowering crest of a cabbage”; and the Latin brachium, meaning “arm” or “branch.”

5) Broccoli does not grow wild. False. “Broccoli is a human invention. It was bred out of the wild cabbage plant, Brassica oleracea. It was cultivated to have a specific taste and flavor that was more palatable to people” (source: Indiana Public Media).

Gardener’s tips

“Broccoli needs cool weather to thrive, so here in Florida, it should be planted during fall and winter. It takes 80 to 100 days to mature, so don’t plant too late in the season — rising temperatures may cause the plants to “bolt,” meaning the flowers within the head will start to open.

“In South Florida, broccoli transplants can be planted in the garden from September through January. North and Central Florida gardeners can plant transplants anytime from mid-August through mid-March. You can buy transplants at a garden center or start your own from seed” (source: UF/IFAS).

Nutritional Highlights

Broccoli (raw), 1 cup, chopped

  • Calories: 30
  • Protein: 2g
  • Carbohydrates: 6g
  • Total fat: 0g
  • Dietary fiber: 2g

*For a complete breakdown, visit Food-A-Pedia

Buying & Storing Tips

“Broccoli should have a fresh smell; a bright green color; and firm, tender stalks. Store broccoli unwashed in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable crisper. For maximum nutrient value, wash and use within a few days of purchase” (source: Smith’s Farm).