What is broccoli?
Broccoli is a plant of the Cabbage family and has been around for more than 2000 years, The name "broccoli" comes for the Latin word brachium, which means "branch," or "arm.". Broccoli possesses abundant fleshy flower heads, usually green in color, arranged in a tree-like fashion on branches sprouting from a thick, edible stalk. The large mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves. Broccoli most closely resembles cauliflower, which is a different group of the same species, but broccoli is green rather than white.
Americans have grown it in their gardens for only about 200 years! The first commercially grown broccoli was grown and harvested in New York, then planted in the 1920's in California. A few crates were sent back East and by 1925 the broccoli market was off the ground.
Broccoli is available all year, with a peak season from October through April.
How to choose Broccoli?
Select a bunch that is dark green with tightly closed flowerets. The stalks should be firm, without leggy branches. The buds should be tightly closed and the leaves crisp. Also the stronger broccoli smells, the older it is. Refrigerate, unwashed, in a plastic bag, for up to four days.
If you peel the tough fibrous outer layer off broccoli stems, it cooks faster, makes it esier to digest, and is more attractive.
Broccoli was first grown in the Italian province of Calabria and was given the name Calabrese. Today there are many varieties. In the United States, the most common type of broccoli is the Italian green or sprouting variety. Its green stalks are topped with umbrella-shaped clusters of purplish green florets.
Be sure to cook broccoli quickly, since long cooking not only makes it soft and flavorless, but also destroys it's rich nutrients. Broccoli stems can be cooked in the same length of time as the flowerets if you make "X" incisions from top to bottom through stems.
Salt helps to keep broccoli green. The stalks, when peeled are good toe at also. Leaves are edible but give a better appearance if cut off.
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