Season for Broccoli: October - April
Broccoli is an American mainstay, although probably could use an image revamp and a bit more creativity in the cooking. It takes its name from the Latin word brachium meaning branch or arm, a reflection of its tree-like shape. Featuring a thick stalk with little stems producing a head of florets and leaves, broccoli's components harmonize to create a variety of tastes and textures, and you should utilize them all! Its color ranges from one variety to the next, running the green spectrum and sometimes purple. Most commonly sold in grocery stores is the Italian green, or Calabrese, named for the Italian province of Calabria where it first grew.
How to Buy and Store Broccoli
Look for broccoli with a deep, vivid color that is uniform without any yellowing and with tight buds and crisp leaves. There also shouldn't be any yellow flowers blossoming through, as this is a sign of over maturity. Find stalks and stems that are firm with no signs of slime. Your broccoli can last in the fridge if wrapped airtight for up to ten days. Make sure to refrigerate unwashed, as once washed it will spoil much quicker. Also, once cut, broccoli begins to lose its vitamin C, so should be used as soon as possible (couple of days).
How to Cook Broccoli
First off, rinse your broccoli under cold water, cutting the florets to your desired size. Be bold and include the stems and leaves, peeling the stem if its particularly tough and cutting it into 1/2" slices. Overcooking broccoli will turn it mushy, less flavorful and suck the nutrients right out. So make sure when steaming to be conservative with your cooking time. And also try to opt for steaming over microwaving for the healthiest broccoli you can muster. Raw broccoli added to salads can make a great crunch. Or a simple olive oil - lemon juice dressing makes a beautiful side dish. But broccoli can be used in many a way, and we encourage you to experiment. Here's our Organic Green Garlic and Broccoli Orzo Pasta Recipe to get you started.
Health Benefits of Broccoli
Mama says eat your broccoli, and for good reason! A superpower combination of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and detox-supporting nutrients give broccoli its anti-cancer reputation, and are a true testament to eating your greens. In terms of cancer and the research that's been conducted, broccoli shows promise in the decreased risk of prostate, colon, breast, bladder and ovarian cancers. Broccoli is also a particularly plush source of the flavonoid kaempferol which exudes anti-inflammatory benefits, meaning it may help lessen the impact of allergens in the body.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Broccoli
According to the USDA Pesticide Data Program, 33 pesticide residues were found on conventional broccoli (in 2008) - 3 known or probable carcinogens, 19 suspected hormone disruptors, 6 neurotoxins and 5 developmental or reproductive toxicants. Need we say more?
image: Rick Harris