Did you know? Broccoli, that intensely green vegetable with florets like little trees, is basically a man-made vegetable. Plant scientists and breeders developed broccoli by intensive breeding and crossbreeding of cabbage and other cruciferous crops.
A single variety, originally grown in the Italian Province of Calabria, was eventually given the name Calabrese and became world famous. You can still find seeds for this strain among heirloom seed collectors and sellers. Broccoli’s common name, however, comes from the Latin word ‘brachium,” which means branch or arm.
- Broccoli has been grown in America’s gardens for about 200 years.
- The first broccoli grown commercially was harvested in New York.
- Growers planted the first California Central Valley crops in the 1920s.
- By 1925, the broccoli market had taken off, and health professionals touted it for its anti-cancer nutrients. These nutrients are shared by other cruciferous vegetables like bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale.
- Consumption of broccoli has jumped almost 950 percent during the last 25 years, and for excellent reasons. Broccoli contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, folascin, iron, and fiber.
- Broccoli is also loaded with calcium and a number of seriously nourishing phytochemicals, including beta-carotene, indoles, and isothiocyanates. For those who missed the lecture, phytochemicals prevent cancer-causing substances from forming and getting to target cells.
- Heads of broccoli actually signal shoppers how ripe and healthy they are. Dark green overall is the best color, but florets can span the color range from dark green to purplish, even bluish green. These florets contain more beta-carotene and vitamin C than paler or yellow-fading- to-white ones.
- Broccoli also contains soluble and non-soluble fibers, both needed by a healthy body. It also contains the flavonoid kaempferol, which in addition to fighting cancer helps prevent heart disease and slow the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
- When shopping, ignore rubbery stalks, open, flowering, discolored florets, and tough, wood stems. Left on the counter or in the crisper for a day or more, it may begin to exhibit symptoms like yellow flowering, wilting, and increasing tough stems.
- In the debate of fresh vs. frozen, there is no real winner. Flash-freeze packaging producers cut off the woody stems, leaving more of the nutritious part of broccoli for your family’s eating pleasure. On the flip side, the frozen product contains twice as much sodium as fresh-picked.
The best way to cook broccoli is inside a steamer. These aluminum ‘bowls’ made of many slats of welded metal with a handle look like imaginative umbrellas for elves. When used properly, they deliver broccoli so perfectly steamed that each part is succulent and tender.
Americans are runners-up in the spinach-eating game, but when it comes to broccoli, China is number 1. After all, you couldn’t call their most famous dish beef and spinach, could you?
In Arizona, where broccoli is a major crop, revenues of more than 40 million plump up the state’s economy while providing yet another green superfood for you and your family! FillYourPlate, an online directory of Arizona retail farmers and ranchers, says broccoli is ready to harvest in Arizona all through the winter and spring, from October through March.
Go to FillYourPlate. Choose a source. Get it fresh, make a tangy, low-cal dip, add carrots for color, and vine-on tomatoes for their superb red and reliable sweetness. FillYourPlate also has some superb recipes.
Finally, invite friends and watch a pioneer movie showing how immigrants arrived in America with their goats, sheep, cows, chickens, ducks, and paper packets of garden seed cherished more than gold.