Friday, August 7, 2015

Broccoli 101

Broccoli is a member of the Brassicaceae family that includes Romanesco Broccoli, Broccoli Rabe, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Turnips, Radish, Horseradish, Kohlrabi, Kale and Collard Greens to name a few. The Brassica family includes over 3,700 species. The broccoli plant itself has a large flowering head that is eaten as a vegetable. The plant is usually green in color and looks like a tree like structure with an edible stalk. Broccoli is a cool weather crop that does poorly in the hot summer. There are three commonly grown types of broccoli. The most recognized is Calabrese broccoli named after the city of Calabria Italy and simply called “broccoli.” Next is Sprout broccoli which has a larger number of heads and many thin stalks. Finally there is purple broccoli sold in Southern Italy, Spain and the UK. If you would like to learn more about broccoli varietals go here. The top producers of broccoli are China, India, Italy, Mexico and France.

Broccolis history starts around the 6th Century BC in the Mediterranean. Since the time of the Roman Empire broccoli has been important to the Italians. It was first introduced to the United States by Italian immigrants but did not become widely accepted until the 1920’s.

Did you know the word broccoli comes from the Italian word brocco which means arm? The state of California produces 90% of the US broccoli supply and President George H.W. Bush was famous for stating in 1990: "I do not like broccoli, and I haven't liked it since I was a little kid, and my mother made me eat it, and I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli." For more fun facts about broccoli go here. To learn more about broccoli go here.

To Store

Eat fresh broccoli as soon as you can. To store, mist the head and wrap loosely in a damp paper towel and refrigerate. Use within 2-3 days. Do not store in sealed plastic bags as broccoli requires air circulation. Cooked broccoli should be covered and refrigerated to use within 3 days. For more tips on broccoli storage and the method for freezing broccoli go to this article from wikihow.

To Nourish

High in Vitamin K, C, B6, E & B12, also Chromium, Folate, Fiber, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus, Manganese, Choline to name a few, broccoli comes packed with health benefits. There is plenty of research to support broccolis impact on cancer prevention with it’s anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant benefits and ability to detoxify the body. Broccoli also aids in digestion and offers cardiovascular support. It also promotes eye health and skin support and improves metabolism. To read more about the health benefits of broccoli go here.

To Prepare

Broccoli can be eaten raw and even slightly blanched for a veggie tray. It can be prepared by several different cooking method including slow cooking, boiling, steaming, sautéing and roasting. Broccoli can be used in casseroles, pastas, omelets and even quesadillas. Here is an interesting health fact about broccoli and how its preparation will affect the nutrient content from “Did you know that cutting the florets into smaller pieces and the stems into thin slices and letting them sit for 5 to 6 minutes before cooking will enhance their cancer protective properties? Cutting broccoli into smaller pieces breaks the cells and activates an enzyme called myrosinase. The myrosinase converts some of the sulfur-containing chemicals found in broccoli (call glucosinolates) into other sulfur containing chemicals (called isothiocyanates) which research has shown to contain cancer preventive properties not found in the glucosinolates.”

For a simple sauté recipe go to Jamies Home Cooking Skills and for easy steamed broccoli check out this recipe from Simply Recipes. For how to prepare broccoli 5 ways check out this page from The Kitchn. For 25 ways to eat brassicas go to this article from Bon Appetit. And for 10 recipes to get kids to eat broccoli go here. Finally if you are baffled on how to prepare your broccoli rabe watch this instructional video.

To Try 

Broccoli Cheese Soufflé
To Use

What sets the OXO Pop-Up Vegetable Steamer apart from others is its innovative design: a pop-up handle provides an extended reach for safe and easy removal, and then presses down and locks for compact storage and holes in handle allow the basket to be lifted with a fork. The handle may be removed completely for steaming large items like fish fillets. Dishwasher safe. (Williams-Sonoma, $17.95)