Broccoli is a cool-season annual vegetable from the same family as cabbage. Its distinctive appearance is easily recognized, and it’s been cultivated as a food crop for several thousand years, originating in the northern Mediterranean. Ninety percent of U.S.-grown broccoli comes from California, though China and India are the biggest world producers.
A great source of vitamins K and C, broccoli also can help lower cholesterol when consumed after having been steamed. It is also a moderate source of folate and chromium.
When picking out broccoli, look for firm, dark green heads whose buds haven’t opened. Avoid yellow broccoli or stalks that are limp and rubbery, as these are signs of age. Store broccoli in your refrigerator’s crisper, in an open or perforated bag. Broccoli is best consumed within four days of purchase, but if you buy from a local grower or farmers’ market, you can add a few days to that.
Don’t wash broccoli until you’re ready to prepare it. Rinse it in cool water; it’s easier to ensure it gets clean when the florets have been separated from the main stem. The main stem is edible, but it can be tougher than the thinner stalks that form the base of the florets.
Broccoli is best prepared steamed, but be careful not to overcook it. Doing so makes it limp and mushy, and also affects its nutritional value. It should retain its vivid green color and be tender.
You can grow broccoli at home in spring and fall gardens, depending on your climate. It does best in well-drained, moist, fertile soil and a location that gets full sun. It doesn’t tolerate heat well though, so if you live in an area where summer tends to show up quickly, choose a quickly maturing, heat-tolerant variety.
Look for fresh broccoli at your local farmers’ markets soon, particularly if you’re in the Southeast. Some producers may even have broccoli starts available for sale if you want to grow several varieties in your home garden, so definitely keep an eye out for those in the next month or so.
Check out local farmers markets available in your area by going to our PlantPure Directory at www.plantpuredirectory.com