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Brokali produces long, central flower stems and side stems topped with large, ruffled, blue-green leaves. The stems reach an average of 20 to 25 centimeters tall and when harvested young, the remaining plant will produce dozens of small side-shoots. The florets are smaller and looser than those of conventional broccoli. The kale-like leaves vary in size and have tender, edible stems. Brokali offers a tender, fibreless texture and a sweet and nutty flavor with a hint of bitterness.
Brokali is available nearly year-round with peak seasons in the spring and fall months.
Brokali is the result of a hybrid cross between broccoli and Chinese kale. It is botanically a combination of Brassica oleracea var. italica and Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra. There are two named cultivars of the hybrid, Apollo and Atlantis, which are available to both home and commercial growers. The young, central heads are harvested to allow the growth of side-shoots, providing a continuous harvest during the season. Brokali was developed, in part, to meet growing market demand for sprouting broccoli varieties.
Brokali is an excellent source of vitamins C, K and B-complex vitamins, as well as beta-carotene and fiber. It is a good source of calcium, iron and potassium and is a source of protein. Brokali is a member of the Brassica genus, which is known for its heart-healthy and cancer-fighting properties.
Brokali can be enjoyed raw or cooked in any of the same applications as conventional broccoli, broccolini or sprouting broccoli. Chop florets and leaves separately and add to salads or egg dishes. Keep stems whole and leaves attached or halve and sauté, roast or grill for a side dish. Lightly blanch or steam spears and leaves or rough chop and add to stir-fry, pastas, grain or rice dishes. Brokali can be blanched and frozen for up to 3 months. Store Brokali in the refrigerator for up to a week.
The popularity of long-stemmed, tender, leafy broccoli began with the development of broccolini in the mid-1990s. Broccolini is grown commercially under the name aspiration and is a hybrid cross between broccoli and gai lan, like Brokali. Other newly developed varieties include sprouting cauliflower hybrids caulilini and karifurore.
Brokali is a natural cross between Italian Calabrese broccoli and a Brassica variety known as Chinese kale, Chinese broccoli, gai lan or kailaan. It was developed in the early 2000s and after several large seed companies had completed trials of the new hybrid vegetable it was introduced in 2011. Brokali is a cool weather crop, growing quickly and prolifically in colder climates and withstanding frost, yet can also grow in areas with mild winters. Brokali is available through seed companies in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia and may be spotted at farmer’s markets in the spring and fall.