Selective breeding is a powerful tool, given enough time. It gave us poodles, chihuahuas and labradors, all from the same canine ancestor. Likewise, several millennia of human tinkering turned wild cabbage, brassica oleracea, into broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and kohlrabi.

Before World War II, broccoli was pretty much unheard of in Australia. The stocky little trees came here with Italian immigrants, whose Roman ancestors cultivated it from around the 6th century BC.

The slender, elongated broccolini is a much newer (and more deliberate) invention, created in 1993 by crossbreeding regular broccoli with gai lan (Chinese broccoli), another brassica oleracea descendant.

Broccolini has a sweeter, milder taste than its cousin and works well steamed or in stir-frys. Classic broccoli is good roasted, or pureed to make a soup. Both variants are high in essential nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium and iron.

Read more “Versus” to learn the difference between champagne and prosecco, ice-cream and gelato, and other similar things.

This story originally appeared in Melbourne print issue 29 and Sydney print issue 21.