A vegetable believed to have originated in southern Italy; broccoli has a long history of cultivation, having been developed by the Romans from wild cabbage. The Romans had high esteem for this vegetable, which to this day is often associated with Italian cuisine. It is held that broccoli was grown for its floral shoots in Asia Minor and that it was later brought by navigators to Italy, where it was subsequently developed and much improved. Catherine de Medicis introduced it into France.
Cooked broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium; it is a good source of folic acid and contains vitamin C, magnesium, pantothenic acid, iron and phosphorus. Like the other members of the large cabbage family, broccoli contains betacarotenes, which are believed to be anticarcinogenic.
Choose broccoli that is firm and evenly coloured, with compact bud clusters. Broccoli with open flowers or yellow, wilted or bruised broccoli that is losing its buds should be avoided, as it is neither fresh nor tender. The outer leaves should be a deep green and the stems should be firm.
This vegetable is very perishable: signs of spoiling include wilted leaves, open buds that are yellow or falling and a hardened stem. Store broccoli in the crisper of the refrigerator, where it will keep for days. Blanched and frozen, broccoli will keep for up to a year at -17
Since the stems take longer to cook than the florets, they can be cooked separately for a few minutes or peeled if they are very fibrous or cut into pieces (necessary they are very thick). Lengthwise incisions can also be made in the stems for quicker cooking. Broccoli can be boiled, steamed, stir-fried or cooked in the microwave. Allow 10 – 15 minutes when boiling or steaming whole broccoli. Adding a bit of sugar during cooking it help it remain greener.
Broccoli can be eaten ram or cooked. Raw, it is often served on its own, with a dip, in an appetizer or added to salad. Cooked broccoli is good warm or cold and is best when still slightly firm. It is delicious served with a dressing, with béchamel, mornay or hollandaise sauce, au gratin or simply with butter or pureed. It makes a good vegetable side dish and is also frequently added to soups, stews, omelettes, soufflés, quiches and pasta. Broccoli can be prepared in the same manner as cauliflower.