The blue-green vegetable with a flowering head and a savoury taste
Broccoli is tasty, a versatile recipe ingredient, and full of nutritious value. It’s worth taking a closer look at the typically dark-green and leafy vegetable.
Like its relative, cauliflower, it’s been a staple in most kitchens for a long time. That’s a good thing because broccoli, which is part of the cabbage family, is in no way lacking when compared with other vegetables. It has a hearty taste, plenty of nutritional value, and can be added to countless dishes. What’s more, the popular vegetable is also easy to digest and has few calories.
Unlike other cabbage varieties, it isn’t broccoli’s leaves that are eaten, but rather its flowers. Usually, these are cut from its stalks as small florets. This isn’t strictly necessary, though, because even the stalk itself is edible. Incidentally, besides the dark green kind that is often available, broccoli also comes in white, yellow, and purple.
|Calories||30 kcal per 100g|
|Nutrients||2.3g carbohydrate, 290g fibre, 0.4g fat, 290g protein per 100g|
|Season||mid-May to mid-November|
|Shelf life||2 days (somewhat longer if packed in foil)|
Broccoli has a slightly peppery and hearty flavour, though it is not so intense that it masks other flavours. For this reason, it fits well with an impressive number of other vegetables, in addition to various types of meat and fish. The flavour of broccoli is in fact more reminiscent of asparagus than cabbage. Its delicate taste can be emphasised with a dash of lemon juice and a knob of butter, but try not to smother it in too many spices. A pinch of salt and nutmeg is beneficial, however, and roasted almond flakes are always a great way to improve the taste.
Apart from its delicious flavour and green freshness, broccoli’s nutritional value is outstanding. Vitamin C and beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, are especially well-represented. Those looking to get the most value out of broccoli should be sure to cook broccoli fairly briefly, or even eat it raw every once in a while.
Asia Minor is likely broccoli’s region of origin, but the first European country in which it became indigenous is Italy. This explains why it was known as the “Italian asparagus” when it was first introduced to England. Today, the green vegetable grows worldwide; even in Switzerland, it is available from early summer to autumn – thanks to its local harvest.
Fresh broccoli can be recognised by its rich green colour and its closed flower buds. If the buds have opened and the vegetable has turned slightly yellow, avoid it. At that point, it has lost a lot of its flavour and will have begun to turn woody in texture. Unlike other cabbage varieties, such as red cabbage, broccoli does not have a long shelf life and should be eaten as soon as possible.
Broccoli essentially only needs to be washed and, if needed, cut into smaller pieces. After that, you can braise, steam, blanch, or cook it any way you like depending on your preferences. However, you can also leave it raw and use it in salads, for example. A brief four to eight minutes will suffice for cooking the florets, and it only takes twelve to fifteen minutes to cook the whole vegetable.
The florets are probably the most popular part of the broccoli plant, but the stalks are just as delicious. They can be easily peeled, sliced, and then cooked in boiling, salted water for a little over ten minutes. The stalks can then be served just like that or prepared further, the same way the florets are prepared.
By the way, once purchased, broccoli keeps longer when it is cleaned, chopped up, blanched, and frozen. This way, it can be stored in the freezer for several months and portioned out as an ingredient in vegetable curries, casseroles, or soups – a quick and easy way to enrich many dishes with this tasty, verdant vegetable.
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