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Brussels sprouts »« Beetroot

Broccoli

Brassica oleracea, Cymosa group syn var italica


Photo courtesy of Horticulture New Zealand

Description

Broccoli is a popular, easily available and versatile vegetable. A close relative of the cauliflower, there are a number of varieties that range in colour from pale green to purple. Raw, it has a strong, almost peppery taste, but when cooked the flavour becomes much more delicate and subtle.

When buying, look for tight, firm heads that are a dark green colour and not yellowing. Store in the fridge in a plastic bag – it will be fine for a few days but it’s best to use it as soon as possible.

Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables you’ll find. As well as having antioxidant properties, it contains a huge number of nutrients, including vitamins C, E, and A, calcium, folate, potassium, iron, and fibre. Purple broccoli has even higher levels of some of these minerals.

Try not to overcook your broccoli – the lighter the cooking, the more nutrients are retained.

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History

Broccoli has been cultivated for at least 2,000 years, evolving from a type of European wild cabbage. Not much is known about the vegetable’s history, but it is likely that it was eaten by Romans in what is now modern-day Italy.

Along with artichokes and other vegetables, it was introduced to France by Catherine de Medici when she married Henry II, and from there made its way to England, where it became known as ‘Italian asparagus’.

It’s known from diaries that US President Thomas Jefferson was planting broccoli as early as 1767, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that Americans were widely aware of it.

Uses

Broccoli has a multitude of uses, from steaming to stir frying to adding to quiches. It can be jazzed up by lightly steaming, adding chopped garlic, and tossing with olive oil and lemon juice for a broccoli salad.

It also makes a popular soup when teamed up with blue cheese.

Facts

Broccoflower is simply a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. Broccolini is a cross between broccoli and kale.

Along with cauliflower, broccoli is a naturally occurring fractal – a geometric shape that can be split into parts that are a close copy of the whole shape.



Brussels sprouts »« Beetroot

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