Whether you love it or hate it, broccoli is here to stay. This bright green vegetable is cultivated for its large, flowering head and stalk which we use in recipes in cuisines all over the globe.
What is broccoli?
It belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family. This same family is also sometimes referred to as the brassicas and it includes other vegetables such as brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, collard greens, carrots, and turnips.
The family name comes from the New Latin word “Cruciferae,” which means cross-bearing. This refers to these plants shape and their cross-bearing flowers. Broccoli, in particular, is similar to the artichoke in that it is one big, delicious, edible flower.
It has an earthy, grassy and mildly bitter flavor. You can eat everything from the florets down to the stalk. I like to cut up the stalk into matchsticks and use it in stir-frys. Waste not, want not!
Serve yours raw, as part of a crudité plate, blanched and sautéed or stir-fried, steamed, deep-fried, roasted, in a soup or stew, or even boiled, though that is arguably the least enticing way to eat it.
There are a few types the general:
Broccoli – This is the exact one you are thinking of in your head. Think big green florets and a good resemblance to a tiny tree.
Broccolini – This one is actually a hybrid between regular broccoli and Chinese Broccoli. It was “born” in 1993. I will let that sink in for a minute.
Chinese Broccoli – This one has thick stems, small florets, and a heady, almost “more broccoli, than broccoli” type flavor.
Broccoli rabe or rapini – This is a misleading name for a vegetable. While it is still a part of the cruciferous vegetable family, it is actually a relative more closely related to turnips. Go figure.
Not only is it low in calories, but it is also full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, it has something called phytochemicals which are disease-fighting. Those in the medical community actually recommend a few servings of this group of veggies each week.
Not enough to get you to eat your veggies? It could lower your risk of certain types of cancer and cardiovascular disease. I would say that makes it worth it.
How do I shop for broccoli?
You want to look for heads that are green in color with a firm, closely-knit structure of florets and firm stalks. The end of the stalks should be fresh and not dried out or yellowing in any way and the head should feel heavy for its size.
Can I eat raw broccoli?
Absolutely. It is a wonderful snack. Enjoy its own or dipped into some hummus and if you are feeling really sassy, bust the Ranch dressing out of the fridge.
Where does broccoli grow naturally?
Brace yourself. It does not grow in the wild and it was actually created by man.
Some 2000 years ago, the Etruscans who lived in what is now modern-day Tuscany, started selectively breeding wild cabbage. They were skilled horticulturists.
It was then brought to England in the mid-18th century and they referred to it as “Italian asparagus.” Thomas Jefferson took some of the seeds with him to the US in the 1700s, but the vegetable didn’t catch on here until the early 1920s.