Broccoli, with a twist

Broccoli is a popular vegetable. This is partly thanks to the high amount of healthy nutrients and the product’s versatility. The super vegetable ended up in Western Europe through Italy, and has become a common product here. Various broccoli-like vegetables are now available.

Broccolini big in United Kingdom 
Broccolini, or baby broccoli, was developed by Sakata Seed Company. It’s a cross between broccoli and kai-lan, a Chinese type of kale. The vegetable is also known under the brand names ‘Bimi’ and ‘Tenderstem Broccoli’. The vegetable looks rather like broccoli, but has smaller flowers and longer stems. Bimi can be eaten whole, and has a rather sweet taste that can be described as being a mix between broccoli and asparagus.

FV Seleqt has had Bimi available year-round since 2011. “Bimi would become the product of 2014, and we succeeded in that,” says William Sonneveld of FV Seleqt. The vegetable is now available at Dutch supermarkets Jumbo, Albert Heijn and Deka Markt. He says this has given sales a huge boost. Still, the Netherlands is rather behind compared to markets like the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, where exotic vegetables like snow peas, sugar snaps and Bimi are very popular. “We do notice a growing demand for Bimi here. The increasing health awareness and high attention to vegetables on television programmes and meal boxes certainly contribute to that.” He notes that young people, who are more open to new products and experiences, are enamoured with Bimi.

Cime di Rapa profits from demand for Italian vegetables 
At first glance, Cime di Rapa, or Rapini, doesn’t immediately look like broccoli. Among the leaves and stalks, however, there are small flower buds that look like broccoli florets. Cime di rapa, also called Broccoletti, can be eaten in its entirety, and has a slightly bitter flavour. The vegetable is a common product in Italy, and accompanies fish or pasta dishes a lot. In recent years, the popularity of Italian vegetables has greatly increased. Leo de Snoo of Rungis has also noticed this. “Cime di Rapa is really a seasonal product. From October to February, the vegetable is at its best. Cime di Rapa mainly goes to Italian restaurants, and restaurants that have several Italian dishes on the menu. Of all cuisines, the Italian remains one of the most popular, and that’s noticeable in the sales of our Italian vegetables, including Cime di Rapa. The vegetable is also organically available through Ecoville, Rungis’ organic specialist. 

Sprouting broccoli combines asparagus and broccoli flavour
A remarkable sight is asparagus broccoli, also known as Bellaverde broccoli or Purple Sprouting Broccoli. Bejo Seeds introduced the vegetable in 2012 under the name sprouting broccoli, and was thus nominated for the Fruit Logistica Innovation award. The seed breeder has now developed several hybrids, one variety of which can also be grown organically. “The vegetable is very popular in the United Kingdom in particular. There, the vegetable is grown and consumed a lot. In winter, they import the vegetable from Spain,” says Daniëlle Bruin. Sprouting broccoli consists of sprouts from a broccoli plant, out of which a purple floret blooms. The vegetable can be eaten in its entirety, and combines the taste of the familiar broccoli (the floret) with a taste that’s like green asparagus (the stem). “This special combination and its remarkable appearance are what makes sprouting broccoli different. Everyone who eats the vegetable, is enthusiastic,” she says. Sprouting broccoli is quick and easy to prepare, and contains more antioxidants than ordinary broccoli. Demand for sprouting broccoli is on the rise in the Netherlands, but she says there are still plenty of opportunities. “Consumers generally don’t know how to eat this vegetables. We also see good opportunities for the restaurant business.”

More information:
FV Seleqt
William Sonneveld

Leo de Snoo

Daniëlle Bruin

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