Featured Vegetable: Broccoli
First named Calabrese, originating in the Italian province of Calabria, broccoli was later renamed brachium, the Latin word meaning “branch”. Broccoli was a Roman favorite over 2,000 years ago, but only arrived in the U.S. within the last 200 years. While it can be grown in many areas, including Washington, Maine and Florida, the bulk of broccoli is grown in California. Starting from seedlings broccoli plants can grow 2 to 3 feet tall! If bunches aren’t picked when flowers are compact, the buds sprout yellow flowers.
When selecting broccoli make sure to pick an odorless bunch with dark green, closed florets. Broccoli should be refrigerated and used within three to five days. Worried it will go bad? Try purchasing frozen broccoli instead - a great alternative that keeps longer!
Broccoli is part of the cabbage family and contributes to many “hybrid” vegetables such as broccolini, a cross of broccoli and kale, and broccoflower, a cross of broccoli and cauliflower. Broccoli Rabe is also closely related to broccoli. To mix up your meals try one of these alternatives in a vegetable stir-fry.
Broccoli is rich in nutrients and the phytochemicals beta-carotene and lutein, which may play a role in the immune system as well as heart and eye health. One cup of raw broccoli provides over 2 grams of fiber, an excellent source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K and a good source of folate and vitamin A. All these nutrients for only 30 calories – broccoli is often considered a superfood! It is a great choice as part of a healthy diet.
Broccoli can be enjoyed in a variety of ways and is available all year round. Keep in mind cooking method and duration can impact the retention of key nutrients like vitamin C and some phytonutrients. Consider steaming broccoli, be mindful of not overcooking and enjoy broccoli raw to maintain such healthful components. Enjoy broccoli as a side dish or pop it in a pita to make a veggie sandwich that adds some crunch to your lunch! Add broccoli into a soup or omelette, or even on top of a homemade pizza. Don’t discard the stalks - grate them up into cole slaw or cut them julienne style on top of a salad. Don’t have time to cook a full meal? Try raw broccoli dipped in dressing or hummus. It can even be cooked into a quick pasta dish.
Want more ideas for broccoli? Check out these recipes: