You can boil, puree, steam or stir-fry it, because broccoli is both beneficial and versatile.
“The wonder veggie is packed with antioxidants, vitamin C, folate and fiber,” said Deb Chappell, a Virginia Cooperative Extension family and consumer sciences agent. “And broccoli is for more than just steaming these days.”
It can be served raw in salads or as a crudite with dip. You can steam broccoli in the microwave or boil it on the stove. It can be stir-fried with other veggies and meat. Or broccoli can be pureed for soup. “Or you can even put broccoli in a blender with other ingredients to make a pasta sauce,” Chappell said.
Broccoli can be found through November at local farmers’ markets and year-round in the grocery store. Look for firm stems with heads that are a dark green-purple color. Buds should be closed with no signs of yellow flowers. One-and-a-half pounds will yield four generous servings, Chappell said.
Broccoli will keep for three days when refrigerated. “If your broccoli wilts, trim the bottom, place it in a cup of water, cover with plastic and refrigerate,” Chappell said.
To use, rinse and remove the outer leaves and tough stems. “The leaves are actually edible and contain more beta carotene than the florets,” she added.
Broccoli is a member of the cabbage family, and is closely related to cauliflower. Its cultivation originated in Italy. Broccolo, its Italian name, means “cabbage sprout.” Because of its different components, broccoli provides a range of tastes and textures, from soft and flowery (the floret) to fibrous and crunchy (the stem and stalk).
Chappell recommends using the stems in stir-fries, soups or salads. You can eat broccoli stems raw by peeling off the tough, outer layer of skin with a paring knife and then slicing them up.
“Don’t overcook broccoli or any of its relatives,” Chappell said. “For best flavor and retained nutrients, steam or boil lightly until just tender and still a bright green.”
Steaming or microwaving preserves more of broccoli’s nutrients, she said.
Like other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli contains the phytonutrients sulforaphane and indoles, which have significant anti-cancer effects. Studies consistently show that diets high in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower, are associated with lower incidence of certain cancers, including lung, colon, breast and ovarian cancer. Now, research published in the International Journal of Cancer suggests that bladder and prostate cancer can join the list. Additionally, broccoli contains important nutrients including 205 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C and 194 percent of vitamin K.
“All too often, broccoli is presented in a cheese or cream sauce that is high in fat, calories and cholesterol,” Chappell said. “To keep it healthy and delicious, try topping lightly steamed broccoli with grated Parmesan cheese or lemon juice, slivered almonds, sesame seeds or toasted breadcrumbs.”