What Is The Difference Between Cauliflower & Broccoli? What Is The Nutritional Difference Between Broccoli & Cauliflower? Are Cauliflower Easier To Grow than Broccoli?

The difference difference between broccoli and cauliflower is often hotly debated. Is the a difference? If so, does it matter?

Well that’s for you to decide. In this article I give you the facts so you can decide. but I have to say it is quite difficult to determine the difference, and it does cause a lot of arguments.

Let’s start by defining what cauliflower and broccoli are and look at some of the types that we can grow in the UK.

What is a Cauliflower?

A Cauliflower, But What Is the Difference Between Cauliflower & Broccoli? 
A Cauliflower, But What Is the Difference Between Cauliflower & Broccoli?

Cauliflower are annual plants from the cabbage family of plants. The Latin for this form of cabbage is Brassica oleraceae. The edible part is is the immature flower head, often called a curd or head. Technically it is an inflorescence meristem. Because it comes from the main meristem (growing tip) of the plant there is just one head and it can grow to the size of a dinner plate in some cases. In most cases the head is white or cream in colour.

Once the cauliflower head is harvested most growers say there

is little point in keeping that plant, it isn’t going to grow a large second head. However, on a garden scale secondary growth does sometimes occur, with smaller heads growing. Lthe young leaves and secondary growth leaves are edible. But most people don’t eat cauliflower leaves (the young ones are good to eat so maybe they should).

What is Broccoli?

Broccoli are also a form of cabbage. In fact it is the same plant species as cauliflower, Brassica oleraceae. Which makes it exactly the same as a cauliflower! Or does it?

Broccoli, But What Is the Difference Between Cauliflower & Broccoli? 
Broccoli, But What Is the Difference Between Cauliflower & Broccoli?

Broccoli look a bit different. But they also have a single central head in most cases. Though in this case it is usually green.

Not all broccoli have a single head. There are also white and purple sprouting broccoli.

What Are Sprouting Broccoli?

Sprouting broccoli are a form of broccoli where the central head is replaced by a number of sideshoots with smaller flower heads. The usual colours are white and purple.

What Colour Are Cauliflower & Broccoli Heads?

I’ve partly answered that above. Caulis are normally white or cream and broccoli are white or purple.

If only it were that simple.

Caulis come in other colours. There are green ones, orange ones, and purple ones.

As for broccoli, well some people describe rage purple sprouting as being violet!

Of course we shouldn’t be surprised that the colours are largely interchangeable. They are all cultivars of Brassica oleraceae.

What is Romanesco, aka  Romanesco broccoli, Broccolo Romanesco Roman CauliflowerRomanesque Cauliflower?

I did warn you that the differences between caulis and broccoli was tricky. This one is often called both names.

Romanesco, An Outlier in the Debate About the Difference Between Cauliflower & Broccoli? 
Romanesco, An Outlier in the Debate About the Difference Between Cauliflower & Broccoli?

Romanesque are those wonderful veg where the head is a fractal. Chefs love them as they look great own a plate.

The thing is they are also Brassica oleraceae. So they might look different but they are the same species!

What Is Calabrese?

Calabrese is yet another variation on the broccoli theme! The simplest way I can explain it is this. Calabrese is the form of broccoli grown in the Calabrese region of Italy. Its another Brassica oleraceae.

The Nutritional Difference Between Broccoli & Cauliflower

Various sources quote lots of figures on this. Indeed a lot of research has been carried out on the nutritional value of many crops. So what is the nutritional value of cauliflower and broccoli?

Well, sources vary in their answers. Some say one has more of this vitamin whilst the other has more of another. The differences are often quite small and I have to ask if it really matters a lot provided we have a good mixed diet of a range of veg?

I look at it this way. If everyone reading this article had their blood pressure measured there would be quite a range around an average. Ditto if we analysed their blood. There would be a few outliers, perhaps signifying a medical problem, but most people would be around average.

I think caulis and broccoli are similar. If you took quite a few samples and tested them the differences wouldn’t be huge. The magnitude of difference wouldn’t matter that much as it would be quite small.

If you are a nutritionist and know better I’d love to hear from you.

How Can One Species Give Such Varied Veg?

Someone is bound to ask this question, so I’d best answer it now.

Why is it if these are all Brassica oleraceae they look so different.

The answer is simple. It’s here in the people reading this article. We are all the same species, Homo sapiens. But we all look different. Some are blonde, some have black hair, others are brunette or ginger.  Most of us are average height (that’s how we define average), but some are very tall and some are shorter than average. That’s just a fact of life. And some of us are left handed and some right handed … is the fractal layout of Romanesco always the same?

And if that doesn’t convince you let’s consider dogs, Canis familiaris. There is a huge visual difference between Chihuahua, Greyhounds and Alsatians. But they are all the same species.

So, What is the Difference Between Cauliflower and Broccoli?

I’ve given the facts above and I know that people will argue about the difference. So I’m going to keep my opinion to myself as I don’t think it really matters.

For years I grew various Brassica oleraceae on my market garden and my neighbours also grew them. Some grew hundreds of acres of them. Not once did I hear them argue about the difference. They just appreciated them for what they are.

I say, vive la différence. 

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2 thoughts on “What Is The Difference Between Cauliflower & Broccoli?

  1. Martin Scherer says:

    And which is easier to grow?

    1. Stefan Drew says:

      Personally I find no difference. But new growers may find brocoli, calabrese and sprouting easier than cauli which many leave too late to harvest.

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