Broccoli has been around for more than 2000 years, The name "broccoli" comes for the Latin word brachium, which means "branch," or "arm." Americans have grown it in their gardens for only about 200 years! The first commercially grown broccoli was grown and harvested in New York, then planted in the 1920s in California. A few crates were sent back East and by 1925 the broccoli market was off the ground.
The famous broccoli plant is part of the cabbage (Brassicaceae) family of plants. In botany, broccoli is classified as the Italica Cultivar Group of the Brassica oleracea species but there is also a classification for Chinese broccoli - Alboglabra Group. Broccoli is cultivated in colder climates, as it develops poorly in hot weather. Several variations of the plant are commonly found in markets all over the world – varieties such as sprouting broccoli or Calabrese. The nutritious broccoli displays a bouquet of green flower heads that are situated on a tree like structure, with branches coming out of a thick stalk. Similar to cauliflower, broccoli has leaves sprouting around the flowers. The green color of the common broccoli plant recommends it as one of the most popular veggies.
The name of this vegetable comes from the Italian word “brocco” which is translated as “arm”, but some also suggest that the pure Latin form of the word – brachium – also contributed to the name of this plant. The nutritional characteristics of broccoli were often ‘advertised” in health and fitness related media outlets. Raw broccoli is often consumed as such, although different cooking methods, like steaming or boiling, are also available. The high count of C vitamin and fibers is accompanied by the glucoraphanin compound, which is closely connected to sulforaphane – an anticancer compound.
Production of Broccoli
In most cases, broccoli is cultivated in hotbeds or greenhouses. Loose seeing and an easily pulverized loam are recommended for good broccoli production. Broccoli is not extremely sensitive to parasites, insects or weed, but soil treatments are still necessary. The seeds should be planted one-quarter to one-half inch deep in rows 4 to 6 inches apart, with 2 to 4 seeds per inch. Thinning becomes necessary when the broccoli reaches its two-leaf level and about half an inch is needed between the individual plants. Broccoli should be watered daily, once in the morning and once in the evening, while soluble fertilizers should be used twice a month, at regular intervals. Greenhouse containers are mostly used to plant broccoli – they come in different shapes such as peat pots or seedling trays. The compound of the soil should contain peat, perlite, vermiculite, and bark. When properly taken care of, broccoli plants raised in greenhouses develop in about 6 weeks for the spring crop and a week faster for the fall crop. As broccoli wilts quickly when exposed to sunlight, harvesting should be made in the morning, especially for the spring crops. The head of the plant has to be cut before the flower buds open and then proper market presentation preparations are needed.
Broccoli was first grown in the Italian province of Calabria and was given the name Calabrese. Today there are many varieties. In the United States, the most common type of broccoli is the Italian green or sprouting variety. Its green stalks are topped with umbrella-shaped clusters of purplish green florets.
There are several broccoli variations that one can try in his or her culinary experiences. The most popular types include Baccus, Green Comet, Dawn, Galleon, Packman, Emperor, Legend, Mariner, Premium Crop, Green Duke, Arcadia, Green Valiant, Green Defender, Southern Comet, Single Head, Decathlon, Marathon. The regular, most popular broccoli variation is called Italica Cultivar - group of the Brassica oleracea species but there is also a classification for Chinese broccoli - Alboglabra Group. While most recipes will only refer to the general name of the plant – broccoli – some specialized regional cuisines may require certain broccoli types to be used so as to produce the perfect dish.
Choose bunches that are dark green. Good color indicates high nutrient value. Florets that are dark green, purplish, or bluish green contain more beta-carotene and vitamin C than paler or yellowing ones which will taste half as good. Choose bunches with stalks that are very firm. Stalks that bend or seem rubbery are of poor quality. Avoid broccoli with open, flowering, discolored, or water-soaked bud clusters and tough, woody stems.
Decaying broccoli has enlarged buds and it is soft and has water spots all over the bud cluster. The scent of the broccoli is another aspect you should keep in mind – older broccoli tends to smell a lot stronger than newly picked ones. Fresh and tasty broccoli is firm and doesn’t display any color hue variations. One other thing that all cooks should take care of is the fact that, since the stem is much thicker than the buds, uneven cooking may occur. Slicing up the stem can eliminate this problem. Cooking time should also be quick, since prolonged boiling will reduce the quantities of positive nutrients.
Store broccoli unwashed, in an open plastic bag and place in the crisper drawer of refrigerator. It is best if used within a day or two after purchasing.
Fresh vs. Frozen
Packaged frozen broccoli differs from fresh in its nutrient content. The flower buds or florets are richer in beta-carotene than the stalks. Manufactures typically cut off most of the stalk before packaging it, so frozen broccoli may contain 35% more beta-carotene by weight than fresh broccoli. The downside is that frozen broccoli has twice as much sodium as fresh (up to 68 mg per 10 oz. package), about half the calcium, and smaller amounts of iron, thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin C.
Preparation and Cooking
Although most people still cook broccoli, this particular plant is getting more and more fans that eat it raw. From a nutritional point of view, raw broccoli is much healthier, as less of its nutrients and vitamins are lost during cooking. Slicing up the broccoli also helps release most of its nutritive enzymes.
The best way to cook broccoli is to steam, cook in the microwave or stir-fry with a little broth or water. These methods are better than boiling. Some of the vitamin and mineral content are lost from the vegetable and end up in the cooking water when they are boiled. Cooked broccoli should be tender enough so that it can be pierced with a sharp knife, and still remain crisp and bright green in color.
In most cases, expert chefs recommend that you start cooking the stems first, since they are thicker, and adding the broccoli florets later, after a couple of minutes, since they cook much faster. An X cut in the base of the stem will enable it to cook faster. The leaves of the broccoli plant are often thrown away, but from a nutritional point of view, they are also very rich in healthy compounds. If you are looking to get the maximum health benefit from your broccoli, try not to boil it or microwave it. Micro waved broccoli looses over 80% of its main antioxidants - flavonoids, sinapics and caffeoyl-quinic derivatives – which are anti-cancer compounds.
When it comes to storing broccoli, try to do that before washing the plant. The best way to store broccoli is to place it into a perforated plastic bag which then goes into your fridge. A sealed bag would cause the plant to create too much moisture and often lead to mold growth. Most chefs recommend storing broccoli for a period of up to five days. Of course, you can also freeze the broccoli plant in the freezer, and, in this case, it will store well for up to a year. It’s also important to know what other vegetables or fruits are found in the same storage space as the broccoli. Some plants produce ethylene, a gas that speeds up broccoli ripening. The fruits and vegetables that should not be placed near broccoli include: apples, apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwifruit, mango, peaches, pears and tomatoes.
Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables you can serve and its healthy compounds make it more and more appreciated in homes all over the world. Here are some of the nutritional values of a cup of steamed broccoli:
- calories - 44
- total fat (g) - 0.5
- saturated fat (g) - 0.1
- monounsaturated fat (g) - 0
- polyunsaturated fat (g) - 0.3
- dietary fiber (g) - 4.5
- protein (g) - 5
- carbohydrate (g) - 8
- sodium (mg) - 41
- beta-carotene (mg) - 1.3
- vitamin c (mg) - 116
- vitamin e (mg) - 2.6
- folate (mcg) - 78
- manganese (mg) - 0.3
- potassium (mg) - 456
Broccoli Nutritional Research
Out of all the vegetables that have been tested for healthy substances, broccoli has got to be the most popular one. Hundreds of tests, carried out by prestigious private and state-owned research centers showed the amazing potential benefits offered by this plant. For more details on broccoli nutritional research, please see the articles below:
- Broccoli and Cancer Protection
- Broccoli Sprouts Provide Protection against Stomach Cancer
- Help for Sun-Damaged Skin
- Broccoli - A Cardio-Protective Vegetable
- Broccoli and Cataract Prevention
- Broccoli - Protection Against Ulcers
- Broccoli - An Immune System Booster
- Broccoli - A Birth Defect Fighter
- Broccoli - Protection against Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are hundreds and hundreds of broccoli recipes, and new ones seem to pop up every now and them, mostly because the popularity of this veggie is on an ascendant trend. Excellent dishes like the Broccoli Bacon Quiche, the Broccoli Balls or the interesting Broccoli Bread may often be tasted in restaurants. Broccoli is often present in cauliflower casseroles, while more sumptuous broccoli dishes include Broccoli Canapés, Broccoli Cheese Dip, Broccoli Corn Bake, Broccoli Corn Bread, Broccoli Corn Scallop, Broccoli Corn Soufflé, Broccoli Dip, Broccoli in Cheese Sauce, Broccoli Mushroom Chowder. One of the main elements that define dishes that use this plant is that they are prepared to be healthy and tasty. Vegetarian broccoli dishes are often some of the most popular demands in restaurants, mostly because they offer such an excellent nutritional composition.
Different broccoli related recipes, such as Kidney Beans & Broccoli, Linguine with Broccoli & Garlic or Low Cal Turkey Broccoli Casserole are starting to appear on restaurant menus in many countries. While broccoli is undoubtedly most popular in the United States, different other regional cuisines are offering recipes which include this amazing plant: marinated broccoli appetizers, marinated broccoli & cauliflower salads or marinated broccoli & tomato salads will often be available in ethnic cuisines and traditional restaurants. Other mixed dishes that include broccoli may include Oriental Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry, Pasta Salad with Broccoli & Sun dried tomatoes, Pork Broccoli Stir Fry, Rice & Broccoli Casserole, Sausage & Broccoli Stir Fry, Scallop Broccoli Stir Fry or Stir Fry Broccoli. New broccoli dishes are created almost daily by chefs and home chefs that appreciate the nutritional value of this plant, together with its taste.
- Vegetable of the Month: Broccoli by the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, public domain government resource—original source of article