Broccoli caper: Calabrese masquerades as broccoli, few know

By Morgan Gunnels

CORK, Ireland – Brace yourselves because I’m about to drop a truth bomb on you. I feel like my life has been one big lie after learning today that what we identify as broccoli, isn’t actually broccoli at all.

Broccoli ArcadiaFloramedia

Calabrese. Photo from

The typical green leafy plant is actually calabrese, named after the town Calabria, Italy. The name translates from Italian to sprouting broccoli in English, only adding to the confusion.

According to, supermarkets have helped to confuse these two plants because they use their names interchangeably. Most of what is sold in groceries is actually calabrese not broccoli, and there is a noticeable difference between the two. Broccoli has smaller heads, which mature slowly while calabrese are smaller plants that produce a larger crown. Broccoli is harvested from late winter to late spring while calabrese is harvested between mid-summer and mid-autumn.

Ultan Walsh of Gort Na Nain Farm pointed out this difference as we walked through his property. There, he grows the purple sprouting broccoli, which he claims is the real broccoli. True to its name it is purple in color and grows to about the size of your thumb, Walsh said.

I can’t help but feel bad for the purple sprouting broccoli. Its identity has been stolen and it has been cast into the shadows of the garden. But the truth is out, and now maybe the purple sprouting broccoli will get the recognition it deserves.

The purple sprouting broccoli has smaller heads which mature slowly compared to Calabrese. Photo from

The real McCoy: purple sprouting broccoli. Photo from


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Filed under MU School of Journalism, Science ad Agricultual Journalism

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