Mama was right. Everyone knows vegetables are good for you, and broccoli is one of the most nutritious in all the vegetable kingdom. This tasty green vitamin machine is a member of the cruciferous, or cabbage family, where leaves or flowers of the plant grow in the shape of a cross or crucifix. Not only is broccoli loaded with vitamins and minerals, it also contains high levels of antioxidants known to counteract harmful toxins in our bodies.
Broccoli’s origin began in southern Italy in the province of Calabria. Its name comes from the Latin word, brachium, meaning “branch” or “arm.” Although there are many varieties, the most common type of broccoli is the Italian green, also known as sprouting broccoli. Other family members are broccoflower – a cross between broccoli and cauliflower with a bright, light green color, or broccolini, a slimmer version of broccoli, with tender stems and a milder, more delicate flavor.
To select the pick of the bunch, look for tightly closed, dark green clusters, and firm, crisp stalks. Pass up any yellowing buds, mushy spots, and limp stalks, which indicate the broccoli is past its prime. Look on the bottom of the stalks to make sure they are closed. Stalks with hollow cores on the bottom tend to be older, woodier, and tougher. Store broccoli, unwashed, in a food storage bag and refrigerate up to 5 days. Just remember, broccoli loses its nutritional value the longer you store it – so try to use it within a day or two.
One of the easiest and most versatile uses for broccoli is the casserole. And it would be somewhat unusual to attend a Southern pot luck, church supper, or picnic and not come across some type of broccoli casserole; a pet recipe in almost every Southern cook’s kitchen! Paula’s Cheesy Broccoli Bake is chock full of broccoli, sharp Cheddar, crunchy water chestnuts, and sautéed mushrooms. If it’s soup that fits your mood, try velvety Broccoli Soup – a quick and easy blender soup that takes just minutes to make. If the heat is on, no-cook Broccoli-Almond Salad, or Broccoli Cole Slaw are two salads sure to keep you cool. They’re all good, and a good way to eat your broccoli!