Although you can buy broccoli at any time of the year, it is a summer vegetable. Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous family along with cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. When eaten regularly these vegetables have been linked with a lower risk of heart attach, stroke, colon and breast cancers due to very potent phytochemicals called glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are converted by the enzyme myrosinase to isothiocyanates and indoles when broccoli is cut or chewed. These phytochemicals have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. The enzyme is denatured with heat so be sure not to overcook your broccoli and eat it raw occasionally too.
In addition, broccoli is a great source of vitamin C, folate, beta carotene, fibre, potassium, calcium, and iron. In fact, one cup of broccoli contains more than 100% of your daily requirement for vitamins C and K. Not only is broccoli a good source of vitamins and minerals, but it is very low in calories with only 30 calories per cup.
When buying broccoli, look for a deep, dark green colour, potentially with purple on the florets. The buds on the florets should be tightly shut, and the leaves crisp not wilted. A paler colour, limp leaves, and open buds all indicated that the vegetable is past its’ prime. You can still eat broccoli if the buds have opened into a yellow flower just be sure to do so soon. Also look for a slender stalk, as thicker ones tend to be tougher and dry out more easily. Look for broccoli that has been stored under the spritzer at the supermarket or on ice as the water will keep the broccoli hydrated and prevent it from getting rubbery. As with most vegetables, avoid any with soft, slippery, or mushy spots.
Store broccoli in an open plastic bag in the crisper section of your fridge. If it is wet from the mister, you can wrap it in paper towel to prevent spoilage. Do not store it near ethylene producing fruit such as apples. If there is no room in your crisper store it at the back of the fridge in an open plastic bag. Properly stored broccoli can last up to 1 week. Once cooked, broccoli should be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
Broccoli can be steamed, boiled, sautéed, roasted, or steamed in the microwave. Be sure not to overcook it. Microwaving and steaming both tend produce less of the sulphurous smell that deters some people from cooking broccoli. However, boiling has been shown to cause the highest nutrient loss, especially of vitamin C, of all cooking methods. Add broccoli to pasta sauces, omelettes, soups, stir-fry’s, or salads, or eat it on its own with a drizzle of fresh lemon juice or sprinkle of parmesan. Fresh broccoli roasted with a little olive oil and sea salt until crisp is also delicious. Raw broccoli with hummus makes a nutritious snack.
If you aren’t a broccoli fan, give it another try. The health benefits are worth it.