Broccolini, a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale, was invented by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohama, Japan in 1993. It was introduced in the USA under the name Asparation in 1996 but was marketed as broccolini from 1998. It was first grown in Australia in 1999.
The Asparation name was intended to liken the vegetable to asparagus because it has an edible stem and florets. However, with broccoli an established vegetable, the current name (implying “little broccoli”) seems more apt. The taste is sweeter than that of broccoli and the whole vegetable is usable, reducing waste.
The earliest mentions in Australia refer, not to a vegetable, but to an opera company. In 1887 The Lorgnette (Melbourne) reported that:
The Broccolini Opera Company was, in August last, fulfilling an engagement at Oakbank Garden, Boston, Massachusetts. The opera bouffes “Iolanthe” and “The Mascotte: had been and were the great attraction of the season. Signor Broccolini, the proprietor of the company, made his first appearance in Australia at the Town Hall, Melbourne, as Henry, in “Lohengrin” at a concern, February 23rd, 1885.
Broccolini (the vegetable) is a trademarked name. In Australia, the trademark is held by the horticultural company Perfection, which licensed the brand from Sakata in 1999. Growers around Australia pay a fee to Perfection in order to produce the crop. However, a vegetable called “baby broccoli” seems to be essentially identical and is often available in stores.
Eight stalks of broccolini have just 26 calories (109kj) and the vegetable has virtually no fat, is low in sodium, and is a good source of fibre, potassium Vitamin A and Vitamin C. It is available all year round.