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We love broccoli! It’s tasty and versatile and it lasts well too – which means we can nearly always have some in the refrigerator or the freezer when we want a tasty meal.
But recently, we heard a disturbing rumor – that the broccoli plant is man-made.
Did that mean that we were serving “broccoli genetically modified” at dinner?
We asked a biologist about this and he said, we can keep eating broccoli and this is why.
Is broccoli man-made? Yes, it is. In fact, it’s a descendant of a wild cabbage plant and while it’s not known exactly when the first broccoli was made – we do know that it was being grown in Italy at some point during the 1700s and from there it was shipped to the Americas and the UK and then on to the rest of the world.
However, some botanists believe that broccoli is man-made and that it was one of the first plants that we ever made as a species – there is evidence that the ancient Roman Empire was cultivating plants like today’s broccoli!
Another hint that broccoli is man-made is the name which “means the sprout of a flowering crest of a cabbage” a reference to the seeds that it was created from.
Most of the time in the modern-era, edible plants are created by the use of genetic modification techniques.
But as we’ve already seen – the Romans liked to munch on this healthy vegetable and one thing that ought to be obvious is that the Romans could not use this kind of technology and thus, broccoli must be derived from a natural process (and this is true of other vegetables that were man-made in earlier times too).
So, no. Broccoli is not a GMO crop.
Broccoli was made with a process known as selective breeding.
Selective breeding is a process where plants are bred together over many generations. With each new generation being selected for specific traits.
So, in the case of broccoli’s selective breeding, they took a wild cabbage and opted to use cross-breeding to favor the sprouting stems that distinguish broccoli now. It would have been a very long process to create a new plant by this kind of artificial selection and we should be grateful for our ancestor’s patience.
Their efforts have made brassica oleracea (the Latin name for wild mustard – the cabbage which preceded broccoli) one of the healthiest vegetables that we can eat today.
That brassica oleracea was a busy plant – it’s not just the forebear of broccoli. It’s the progenitor of many other forms of man-made vegetables!
Those Romans are also responsible for other plants including cabbages, brussels sprouts (not Gordon Ramsay’s favorite vegetable), cauliflower, collard greens, kale, and kohlrabi and they all came from the same annual plant the brassica oleracea!
So, surprisingly many popular vegetables were cross-bred from an extensive process that dates back thousands of years!
Broccoli is man-made and it’s still a real vegetable that helps us stay healthy and which tastes great! That’s why it’s one of America’s most popular vegetables.
We recommend that you grow your own broccoli if you love gardening and that you buy it from a farmer’s market if not. This is the best way to get fresh food and produce that tastes amazing!