Is Broccoli Man-Made? The Facts Revealed

Is broccoli man-made or is it found in nature? When asked if broccoli is man-made, your first reaction may be wondering how broccoli can be man-made if it’s grown in the earth? Well, this may depend on what you mean by “man-made”.

Unlike wild mushrooms, onions, or asparagus, broccoli does not appear naturally in the wild. Broccoli did not develop spontaneously like any number of plants in nature. It was developed by man through selective breeding centuries ago, so yes, it is man-made.

This means that it is not a product of genetic modification of a plant already in existence. Let’s take a look at the origins of broccoli. 

Broccoli History

Broccoli is a very popular vegetable that is consumed in a raw or cooked form. It can be acquired as a fresh vegetable in season or as a frozen vegetable at the supermarket. While it may be relatively new to some, it has been consumed in some locations for more than 2,000 years.

Broccoli may have originated in Southern Italy or in the Mediterranean area, and was appreciated by both the Etruscans and in the ancient Roman Empire. Pliny the Elder, a famous naturalist who lived from 23 to 73 AD actually wrote about how broccoli was grown, harvested, and eventually cooked.

Broccoli finally went international after 1533 when Henry II took Caterina de’ Medici as his bride and she introduced broccoli to the French court, where Italian chefs were in residence.

Broccoli Life Cycle and Growth

A member of the Brassicaceae or cabbage family, it is known as a biennial plant that theoretically needs two years for it to complete its life cycle.

During the first year of life, the plant will grow a root system, stalks, and foliage. In the winter of the first year, it will enter dormancy.

The winter cold will stimulate flowering and seed production. Cold can be produced artificially to speed up the natural cycle causing broccoli to behave like an annual, if preferred.

Then in the second year, it will grow taller and develop seeds to ensure reproduction of the species. Then the original plant will die. They do not regenerate in the following season.

What Is Selective Breeding?

Much like the breeding of animals, plants with desirable characteristics are bred to improve those characteristics. Plants can be bred to increase their size, their taste, or to be more productive.

This breeding process is often used for agricultural purposes to cultivate plants that are more disease or pest resistant, as well as more tolerant of harsh climatic conditions, such as drought.

The breeding process is not limited to the use of seeds, but often makes use of cuttings, layering, or grafting.

One noteworthy aspect of selective breeding is how long it takes to produce the desired results. It can often take decades and centuries to get the desired results through selective breeding.

You may need to go through multiple cycles of waiting for a generation to grow, replanting its seeds, and waiting for growth again before you see the desired result.

Selective breeding is also called artificial selection because it relies on humans to make changes. Humans decide which traits they want to breed into the next generation. This is why we call it man-made or human-made.

The Selective Breeding of Broccoli

Broccoli has been bred over generations through the use of Brassica oleracea, also known as wild cabbage or wild mustard. This is a species that finds its natural habitat along the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea in Europe.

A variety of vegetables originate from the Brassica oleracea, including Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collard, and Kale, and of course, Broccoli.

All of these cultivars have been developed systematically to strengthen and reinforce specific desired features in separate plants.

Wild cabbage produces small buds every other year as a biennial plant. Through cultivation in a controlled environment, the entire process is sped up. When larger, tastier plants grew, they were saved and propagated while smaller, less tasty plants were tossed out.

This process is repeated harvest after harvest. By reinforcing desired genetic traits naturally, a new plant, broccoli was born.

Is Broccoli Healthy if it’s Man-Made?

Absolutely, broccoli is healthy if it’s man-made. Broccoli is not a genetically modified organism (GMO), so there are no concerns there because of the unknowns with GMO.

It was not created in a laboratory, but was cultivated through the selection of the very best plants at harvest time yearly. So, the broccoli plant is not modified, but has evolved.

Broccoli is a highly nutritious vegetable that is low in calories, and contains fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. It also contains calcium, iron, selenium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as vitamins A, B, C, E, and K.

Is Broccoli Man-Made Final Thoughts

Broccoli can be considered “man-made” in the sense that it has been selectively bred by man to allow brocooli to evolve to its present state. So actually, it’s not literally man-made. “Man-developed” might be a better label.

Man intervened to get the best plant by continually cultivating the best of the harvest through decades of farming. It can only be considered man-made in the sense that if man had not intervened with selective breeding, broccoli as we know it today might never have existed.

Broccoli is an easy plant to cultivate and the nutrients they provide make it well worth cultivating in your home garden.

Learn more about other fruits and vegetables that might be man made: 

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Written by:

Denise Davis
I am an avid gardener who has spent most of her life in the garden, growing and cultivating organic veggies for friends and family. I love the earthy smell of composting and making homemade fertilizers from natural ingredients like old coffee grounds or eggshells. Gardening is a great way to get outside, learn new things about nature, exercise your body (and brain!) and eat healthy food you have grown yourself!