Question: Is broccoli period?
It is not at all clear when or where broccoli originated.
The popular belief that broccoli was developed in the 18th century by an Italian family of the surname Broccoli (of whom Albert Broccoli, co-producer of the James Bond films, is a descendant) has little or no readily available evidence to support it. The fact that another variant of the same plant species (a type of kale) is documented in the late 17th century with the dutch name "borecole" (various spelling variations, translates to something like "farmer's cabbage"). Note that the word "coles" (the group name for a wide range of leafy vegetables) was often spelled (and apparently pronounced) "coleys" in the 14th and 15th century, which would mean that "borcole" would have been pronounced "borecoley". This suggests that the name at least was in use in northern Europe well before its supposed invention in Italy.
Broccoli is a variant of the species Brassica oleracea. This is a highly variable species that includes plants like cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and kohlrabi. To complicate things, all of these variants can crossbreed (hence the green broccoli-cauliflower cross available at grocery stores as "broccoflower"), and farmers sometimes have trouble with plants at the edges of the fields picking up pollen from other variants in nearby fields. It can not be assumed that the form of broccoli is so highly developed that it didn't exist in period as there are Flemish paintings that have detailed depictions of very modern looking cauliflower.
The word appears to be a compound of Dutch words and may (or may not) be period. The plant is a variant of Brassica oleracea, the chameleon-slut of the plant kingdom, which has several other complex varieties documented for period northern Europe. In short, the answer is a resounding "dunno".
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. ©2000.
NOUN: An edible plant (Brassica oleracea var. acephala) in the mustard family, having spreading crinkled leaves that do not form a compact head. Also called kale, cole, colewort, collard.
ETYMOLOGY: Dutch boerenkool : boer, farmer, peasant; see boor + kool, cabbage (from Middle Dutch cle, from Latin caulis, stalk; see kale).
Webster's 1913 Dictionary
Definition: \Bore"cole'\, n. [Cf. D. boerenkool (lit.) husbandman's cabbage.] A brassicaceous plant of many varieties, cultivated for its leaves, which are not formed into a compact head like the cabbage, but are loose, and are generally curled or wrinkled; kale.
Detail from "Market Woman with Fruit, Vegetables and Poultry"
Joachim Beuckelaer, 1564.
Detail from "The Vegetable Market"
Joachim Beuckelaer, 1567.
Detail from "Market Woman with Vegetable Stall"
Pieter Aertsen, 1567.
© Copyright 2015 Medieval Cookery