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Does Broccoli Grow in the Wild?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

Does broccoli grow in the wild? Some vegetables grow wild, and you might wonder whether the “superfood” vegetable we know as broccoli does too. If you’re counting on finding broccoli growing wild on your journeys through nature, you’ll be disappointed. It doesn’t grow wild, but let’s dig a little deeper and see why.

The term broccoli is derived from the Italian word “broccoli,” which means “flowering cabbage crest.”Broccoli is a hybrid, or cultivar, a product of crossbreeding. Hybrid plants are not found in nature and therefore cannot be reproduced from seed. Furthermore, hybrid plants are not genetically stable—the traits you see from one generation to the next may vary wildly due to their unstable genetic makeup.

Broccoli Is a Product of Artificial Selection

Broccoli came into being through artificial selection, meaning the broccoli that we eat today is the result of centuries of selective breeding. Artificial selection involves crossing two plants or animals that have desirable traits and breeding them to produce more offspring with the desired traits. Over time, these new plants can be grown in large quantities and used for food or other purposes.

In this case, the broccoli you buy at the grocery store was developed by selectively choosing crosses between different subspecies (or breeds). The ancient Romans originally bred broccoli from wild cabbage and turnip plants. Plus, areas of the Mediterranean cultivated broccoli as early as the sixth century BCE. And broccoli continues to be an in-demand and desirable vegetable even in modern times.

The two leading producers of broccoli worldwide are India and China. The broccoli that grows in the United States mainly comes from California. It’s a more labor-intensive vegetable than some since it needs to be harvested by hand.

Broccoli Is a Member of the Cruciferous Vegetable Group

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, along with other common veggies you know and love such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and turnip greens. All these veggies come from the Brassica oleracea italica plant, also known as wild cabbage. They’re well-known for their health benefits. Cruciferous vegetables are a healthy, nutrient-dense group of vegetables that are low in calories and high in fiber.

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The cruciferous vegetable family includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and Bok choy. and Chinese cabbage. Other leafy green vegetables such as collard greens, Swiss chard, and mustard greens also belong to this family.

In addition to offering rich sources of vitamins C and K, cruciferous vegetables provide significant amounts of folate (a B vitamin) as well as calcium and magnesium. They are also good sources of potassium and iron — nutrients you need for strong bones and healthy blood pressure levels.

Does Broccoli Grow in the Wild?

So, if you're looking for fresh broccoli sprouts at your local park or forest preserve, you’ll come up empty-handed. You won’t find wild broccoli on your journeys, as broccoli doesn’t grow in the wild.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t purchase this healthy vegetable from your grocery store to enjoy. It’s packed with nutrients, and you can enjoy it in so many ways, from stir-fries to raw broccoli in salads.

If you need more inspiration, here are some creative ways to enjoy broccoli:

  • As a side dish: Add raw or steamed broccoli to salads, pasta, stir-fries, and other dishes.
  • In soups: Broccoli pairs well with cheddar cheese in this creamy soup recipe.
  • In pesto: Substitute broccoli florets for basil leaves in this recipe for broccoli pesto pasta salad.
  • In sandwiches: Spread cream cheese on whole-grain bread; add lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber slices; top with grated cheddar cheese; then add warm broccoli florets on top of the cheese.
  • In smoothies: Add frozen broccoli to smoothies for an extra boost of nutrition without changing the flavor too much!

With so many ways to enjoy this nutritious vegetable, there’s no reason not to add it to your plate. Enjoy its health benefits!

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