The good news about broccoli is that it’s one of the most popular vegetables. The bad news? Yes, there is some. It’s that we’re not eating enough of it.
In one study, only 3 percent of Americans surveyed reported eating broccoli in the prior twenty-four-hour period. What vegetables and fruits are we eating instead? Iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, French fries, bananas, and oranges. This isn’t good!
While tomatoes and oranges (as well as bananas) are good for you, iceberg lettuce and white potatoes (often in the form of French fries) are the top choices of many Americans when it comes to vegetables. We need to have a seismic shift in our vegetable choices.
One of the excellent features of broccoli is its ready availability. It’s in season October through May, but it’s easy to find in supermarkets all year long. While broccoli is probably most nutritious when bought at a roadside stand from an organic farmer, even frozen broccoli packs a valuable nutritional wallop.
If buying it fresh, it pays to look for young broccoli: older broccoli can be tough and can also have a strong odor. Broccoli comes in a variety of green shades, from a rich sage green to deep forest green. You can even find broccoli in shades of purple. In the broccoli family are broccolini – a combination of broccoli and kale – and broccoflower – a combination of broccoli and cauliflower.
When shopping for broccoli, choose tight, deeply colored, and dense florets, or flowers. (The deeper the color, the more phytonutrients!) Usually, the smaller the head, the better the flavor. Yellowing florets are signs that the broccoli is past its prime. If there are still leaves on the stalks, they should be firm and fresh-looking; wilted leaves are also a sign of an aged vegetable. Broccoli will keep in the fridge in a crisper for five to seven days. Never wash the broccoli before storing, as it can develop mold when damp.
Wash fresh broccoli thoroughly before using, soaking it in cold water if the florets seem to have sand or dirt in them.
Don’t discard the leaves; they’re rich in nutrients. Cut off any tough part of the stalk, slicing up a few inches of the remaining stalk to hasten its cooking time, since the florets cook faster. Steaming or microwaving broccoli in very little water is the best way to cook it. Boiled broccoli can lose more than 50 percent of its vitamin C.