Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family whose large flowering head, stalk and small associated leaves are eaten as a vegetable. The majority of broccoli cultivars are cool-weather crops that do poorly in hot summer weather.
Broccoli is a rich source of vitamins C and K and a good source of many B vitamins and manganese. Broccoli also has a good amount of dietary fiber and protein.
You can also find broccoli shoots which are the “second cuttings” of broccoli that grow after the main head has been harvested. They are just as delicious as the larger heads but with longer, more tender stems and smaller heads.
Buying & Storing
When buying Broccoli, look for firm green stems with little to no yellowing and no soft spots. Broccoli heads should have tight florets. Florets that have opened will have little yellow petals and are edible but will taste bitter and generally more fibrous. Occasionally the floret head of broccoli will have some yellowing or bronzing. This is generally similar to sunburn and has no effect on flavor. When in doubt, smell broccoli. Fresh broccoli will have a slightly sweet and light broccoli smell. Older heads will begin to smell sour, strong, and sometimes moldy as they go bad, sometimes before any visible sign of mold appears. Occasionally, farmers will sell the smaller secondary shoots of broccoli that grow after the main large floret has been harvested. These will be similar to broccoli raab in storage and use.
Broccoli is best used within a few days, though if stored properly it can last up to a week. Store broccoli, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. For long-term storage, broccoli can easily be blanched and frozen. Cut into florets and slice the stems, place in a pot of boiling water for 3-4 minutes, and then dump into an ice bath or rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain the broccoli, let it dry, and then place it in an airtight container or freezer bag. You can also spread the blanched broccoli out on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer before bagging it so that the pieces freeze separately.
Preparation – dunk the entire head repeatedly into a sink or bowl filled with cold, salted water to remove any hidden pests. Snap or cut the florets off of the large center stalk and then cut the larger florets into halves or quarters so they are similar in size. The stalk of broccoli is often used as well, but typically requires peeling off of the fibrous outer layer.
Raw – cut into florets and serve broccoli with hummus or other dips, toss with pasta, sprinkle on pizza, or add to egg dishes, stir-fries, or salads.
Steam – place florets in the steamer basket of a saucepan, or pot with about 1-inch of boiling water in the bottom. Cover the pot and cook over high heat for 5-10 minutes, or until slightly tender. Be careful not to over cook.
Microwave – spread 2 cups of florets in a 1-quart baking dish, add 1-2 tablespoons lightly salted water, and cover. Cook on high for 5 minutes, stir after 3 minutes, let stand covered for 2 minutes.
Roast – cut into florets and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 450°F for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned and tender.
Sauté – cut into florets, heat oil in a skillet or sauté pan, add broccoli, and cook until tender and slightly browned. Pairs deliciously with other vegetables.