Broccoli is a member of the crucifer family of vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. Broccoli is a very commonly eaten vegetable throughout the world. It has large flower-type head that is green in color. Broccoli is also referred as a ‘flowering cabbage top’ which is called ‘Broccolo’ (an Italian word). Broccoli is edible in cooked form. Baked broccoli, broccoli soup and broccoli salad are some of the popular broccoli dishes that are well-liked in global cuisine.
Origin of Broccoli
Broccoli is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean- its name derives from the Latin ‘brachium’, meaning ‘branch’. Since the 16th or 17th century, a popular variety has been cultivated in the Italian province of Calabria, where it is known as Calabrese.
Culinary Use of Broccoli
Broccoli is available in both fresh and frozen forms. It tastes best when eaten in cooked form in salads, soups and side dishes with meat and chicken. Baked broccoli is one of the popular broccoli dishes cooked with cheese. Broccoli dishes are cooked in everyday meals as well as in parties. In hors d'œuvre meals , it is considered as a very popular raw vegetable. Everyday broccoli dishes are usually cooked while boiling, stir-frying and steaming the vegetable.
Cuisines Commonly Making Broccoli Dishes
Italian cuisine is famous for broccoli dishes. Broccoli Italiano, macaroni broccoli and sausage and broccoli rabe are some of the popular Italian broccoli dishes. Mediterranean cuisine and American cuisines also make extensive use of broccoli in making soups and side dishes such as Mediterranean ravioli salad and broccoli pizza. In Asian cuisine, broccoli is added to noodles, soups and meat dishes.
Preferred Method for Cooking Broccoli Dishes
• Boiling – Boiled broccoli is widely used as a side dish or added in various salads, although boiling almost halves its vitamin C contents.
• Steaming – Steamed broccoli with cheese and spices makes an exotic broccoli dish.
• Microwaving – Broccoli dishes made in microwave are usually baked. If cooked with low-fat cheese then it makes a delectable and healthy dish. • Stir-frying – Broccoli is stir-fried and added to noodles, rice and meat dishes.
• Sautéing – It is also one of the methods to prepare broccoli dishes. Sautéing involves very less oil and makes a healthy dish.
Nutritive Value of Broccoli
Broccoli is a highly nutritional vegetable that provides vitamin C, vitamin A and beta carotene. The darker the florets- whether purple, green or deep-blue green – the higher the amount of both vitamin C and beta carotene. Like all cruciferous plants, broccoli also contains a number of beneficial phytochemicals, which may offer some protection against cancer. Phytochemicals retain their powers whether the vegetable is fresh, frozen, raw or cooked. Broccoli dishes made while steaming and boiling are the healthier options than frying and baking with cheese.
Buying and Storing of Broccoli
Broccoli is a vegetable mostly available in winter season though it’s a year-round vegetable. Here are some tips that should be kept in mind while buying and storing the broccoli:
• Fresh smelling broccoli with bright green color florets is always recommended to buy.
• The stalks of broccoli should be firm and tender while purchasing.
• Yellow-colored florets with pungent smell should always be avoided.
• Broccoli should be stored unwashed in a plastic bag in refrigerator.
• Broccoli should be consumed in few days of purchase.
• Leftover broccoli dishes should also be consumed within 2-3 days of cooking.
Types of Broccoli
Broccoli is a widely sold vegetable in international market. Here are the varieties of broccoli listed below:
• Calabrese – It is a commonly grown broccoli in Calabria in Italy. It has thick stalks with green florets.
• Romanesco broccoli – This variety is of yellowish-green color.
• Sprouting Broccoli – It has several heads with thin stalks and it is harvested mainly in winters.
• Purple cauliflower- It’s a Southern Italian broccoli that is common in Spain and UK also.
Broccoli is short in supply during the months of July and August as it is a cool-weather vegetable.
In USA, an average person eats 4 ½ pounds of broccoli in a year.