Purple Sprouting Broccoli vs Broccoli: Which One Should You Grow?

You are right if you think purple sprouting and Broccoli are the same. However, the color isn’t the only thing that makes them different. There are other notable differences between these two crops.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli vs. Broccoli

Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Broccoli

Crop History

Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. Italica) is a tasty and nutritious vegetable that can survive temperatures down to 12 degrees Celsius. It is also a vibrant and nutritious crop that can be overwintered in the maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest (PNW). It is suited to growing regions with mild winters, like the Pacific Northwest, where temperatures don’t drop below 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Since it is well suited to the Pacific Northwest (PNW), it allows growers and retailers to market and sell the crop regionally and beyond. It is famously featured in one of the oldest cookbooks, Apicius by Marcus Gavius Apicius, who lived during the first century AD.

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var Italica) is a nutritious vegetable and a form of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) native to the Eastern Mediterranean and Asia minor. The English name “Broccoli” is derived from the Italian word “Broccolo,” which means “The flowering crest of a cabbage,” and the Latin word “brachium,” meaning arm, branch, or shoot.

It is also a fast-growing annual plant for its edible flower buds and stalk. Broccoli is believed to have been engineered from a cabbage relative by the Etruscans-an ancient Italian civilization who lived in Etruria-now called Tuscany.

Purple Sprouting BroccoliBroccoli
Common namePurple Sprouting BroccoliBroccoli
Botanical nameBrassica oleracea var italicaBrassica oleracea var italica
Plant typeVegetableBiennial, annual, vegetable
Mature size18-36 inches tall18-30 inches tall, 12-24 inches wide
Sun exposureFull sun, dappled shadeFull sun
Soil typeClay/heavy/moist/chalky/alkalineMoist, loamy, well-drained
Soil pHAcidic, neutralAcidic, neutral
Bloom timeSpringSpring
Flower colorPurpleGreen
Hardiness zonesZones 3-10 (USDA)Zones 2-11 (USDA)
Native areaEastern Mediterranean and Central Asian regionMediterranean, Asia

Color and Appearance

The key difference between these two crops is their color. While the purple sprouting broccoli is purple, it is not entirely purple. The floret clusters and leaves of the purple broccoli have a violet hue.

However, the intensity of the purple color may differ from head to head. Unlike purple-sprouting broccoli, broccoli bears dense green clusters of flower buds at the ends of the central axis and the branches. It has dark flower heads, usually dark green, arranged in a tree-like structure branching out from a thick stalk which is usually light green.


While purple sprouting broccoli and broccoli may look alike, they have flavor differences. Purple Broccoli has a sweeter flavor than broccoli, and it has a nutty, peppery flavor with the subtle sweetness and bitterness common to all Brassica vegetables.

The sweetness of this particular crop has to do with the fact that it is grown at cooler temperatures. However, broccoli’s flavor can be described as herbaceous, earthy, and grassy, with a hint of bitterness.


Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Broccoli

Unlike broccoli varieties, purple-sprouting broccoli plants have numerous smaller heads. As the heads are smaller, the plants have a tender texture. Broccoli has a mixture of textures; the stem and stalk are crunchy, while the florets are soft.

For this reason, both crops should not be overcooked to maintain their crispy and appealing texture. Overcooking causes it to soften, break apart, and lose its taste and nutrients. The best way to prevent them from overcooking is to boil the sprouts for 1-2 minutes and instantly transfer them into a bowl filled with cold water.

Cooking Methods

Both crops share the same cooking methods. The only difference is that purple broccoli requires a shorter cooking time and has a more delicate texture. Purple sprouting broccoli can be boiled, steamed, or stir-fried, and the florets have an eye-catching blue that looks great on a platter.

The cooking time depends on the size of the stalks and florets or your personal preference. It can be prepared in various ways; you must choose whichever recipe you want. Purple sprouting broccoli is a great accompaniment for various dips and sauces.

You can also use it to make salads, stir-fries, gratins, pasta dishes, and a side dish for potatoes, salmon, chicken, beef, etc. Broccoli leaves, unlike spinach, retain their texture.

The leaves can be eaten raw, boiled, fried, and steamed. When combined with Kale, they make a divine color for curries, stews, and casseroles.


Purple-sprouting broccoli and broccoli are cool-season crops. Unlike broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli takes more effort to grow, grows slower and less productively. Purple sprouting broccoli is usually planted in late summer for a winter harvest or in early spring for a fall harvest.

It can be started indoors or directly sowed. Whether you’re transplanting seedlings or direct sowing, always remember to amend the soil in the chosen garden plot before planting. In addition, you need to determine the right time for planting, as purple-sprouting broccoli needs to grow at the coolest temperatures.

Unlike its purple counterparts, broccoli can be planted in the spring outdoors roughly two to three weeks before your area’s projected last frost date. It grows best in a spot with full sun, meaning the crop needs at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. In hot climates, partial shade from the afternoon sun is necessary to prevent bolting.

Broccoli thrives best in temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and temperatures above 80 degrees can cause bolting. Some good companion plant for broccoli includes dill, cucumber, rosemary, and celery.

Storage and Shelf Life

Purple sprouting broccoli and broccoli have the same shelf life and storage conditions. You can store purple sprouting broccoli in any freezer-safe-air-tight container or Ziploc bag to ensure they are air-tight and protect the florets from being exposed to air or freezer burns.

Like other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli likes having enough room to breathe. For this reason, store it in a loosely wrapped or perforated plastic bag so it will get some air circulation.

Common Pests and Diseases

cabbage worms
Cabbage Worms

Purple sprouting broccoli and broccoli are susceptible to the same pests and diseases as other members of the cabbage family. The most common pests include cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, cabbage root maggots, and aphids.

While the most common diseases include blackleg, black rot, and clubroot. The above pests and diseases can be prevented by rotating where you plant broccoli each year and by ensuring they grow in proper conditions.

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