Around for over 2000 years, broccoli was first known to be cultivated in Italy. Traded throughout the Mediterranean, broccoli made frequent appearances on plates throughout the Roman Empire. Arriving in the United States in the late 1700’s, broccoli was grown primarily as a backyard garden vegetable. In the early 1920’s, broccoli was commercially harvested in San Jose, Ca. and began to pick up popularity in the Boston and Northeast markets. Today, broccoli is recognized for its culinary attributes to the American cuisine.
Broccoli is known for its exceptional nutritional benefits. Rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C, broccoli is known for its high folate (folic acid) and potassium content. Although definitive proof has yet to be published, broccoli has been linked as an excellent source of beta-carotene which helps reduce the risk of cancer. In addition, it is believed that broccoli helps lower blood cholesterol. If prepared without sauces and other additives, broccoli is virtually a fat free vegetable. Cooked broccoli actually increases the amount of nutritional benefits as it reduces the volume but not the nutritional value. In fact, one would need to eat a significantly greater amount of raw broccoli in order to capture the same amount of nutritional value in its cooked state.
When selecting broccoli, look for tight and compact crowns with dark green, blue green, or purplish green color. Intense colors indicate hearty nutritional content. Yellow or yellowish-green heads indicate that the broccoli has lost some of its nutritional benefits. Avoid choosing broccoli with limp stalks. Select crisp, sturdy, light green stalks which indicate freshness. In addition, take a look at the cut ends and select those that are completely closed. Stalks that are open tend to be tougher and woodier in texture.
Best used within three days after purchase, broccoli can last for several days if properly stored. Wrap broccoli in a plastic bag or plastic wrap and refrigerate as soon as possible in order to keep its nutritional value, particularly Vitamin C which is lost if broccoli is left in warm areas. Never pre-wash broccoli before refrigeration as it will promote mold and decrease shelf life. As a rule of thumb, it is always best to prepare and consume broccoli immediately after purchase. Time in the refrigerator will decrease the nutritional value in any vegetable no matter how well you store it.
Wash broccoli thoroughly with cold water before preparation.
Raw - Chop or dice broccoli florets and stems into a salad bowl with lettuce and an array of other fresh vegetables or include broccoli florets with other fresh vegetables and serve as an appetizer.
Steamed – Simply cut broccoli florets and steam in a covered saucepan with a few cups of water for 4 to 5 minutes. There are a number of seasonings and sauces that work well with steamed broccoli.
Sauce – After steaming, toss florets and stalk into a blender with
vegetable broth, a little olive oil, and seasonings and pour over rice,
potatoes, or pasta. Great alternative to sauces that contain cheeses and
other ingredients that are high in fat content.