Because it dislikes extreme heat and cold, broccoli's growing season in the Houston area is short—usually between January and April. Broccoli is one of the most popular vegetables for home cooks because it's easy to prepare and goes well with any meat, poultry or fish. Broccoli can be thinly sliced on the diagonal and added to stir-fries, broken into florets and added to soups, stews and curries, or steamed or boiled to make an easy side dish.
Considered to be a high-nutrient superfood, broccoli is packed with Vitamins A, B1, B6 and E, pantothenic acid, dietary fiber, phosphorus, manganese, copper, potassium, protein, calcium, zinc, niacin, selenium, and also antioxidants to fight disease. If you have some left over from dinner, why not toss it into tomorrow morning's green smoothie and reap the health benefits that way?
The History of Broccoli
Broccoli is in the brassica family along with cabbage and cauliflower. It is native to the Eastern Mediterranean region and the point of origin is thought to extend from Cyprus and Crete to Asia Minor. This vegetable was popular in Ancient Rome for centuries, making its way into France in the mid-1500s. But it didn't reach England or colonial America until the mid to late-1700s.
Actually, it wasn't popular here at all until the 1920s, when two immigrants from Sicily cultivated the first commercial broccoli crops in California. A few years later, they were shipping to Boston. Today that company, D'Arrigo Bros. Co., is still one of the biggest produce growers in the country.
Curious Broccoli Facts
American ex-presidents have diverse views about this vegetable. To quote George H.W. Bush, "I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli." Barack Obama, on the other hand, claims broccoli is his favorite vegetable! We're not sure where President Trump stands on the issue.
The leading broccoli producing states are California (supplying a whopping 90 percent) and Arizona. More than $600 million of broccoli is harvested annually in California. Frozen broccoli, mainly from Mexico, makes up about one-third of our frozen vegetable imports. Each American eats an average of more than eight pounds of this veggie every year.
How to Buy, Store and Prepare It
Head to any grocery store or farmers market to purchase some broccoli. Choose a bright green head that is not yellowing or limp. The stems should not show any signs of bruising or mold. You can find young sprouting broccoli at farmers markets. This has a thinner stem and tends to be quicker to cook and more tender than the regular kind. Broccoli may be eaten raw or cooked, but it's good practice to wash it carefully if you are going to have it raw.
Keep your broccoli loosely wrapped in a dish towel or plastic bag in the refrigerator and use it within a few days or purchase. Roast whole spears in the oven to sweeten and soften the stems, stir-fry, saute or boil them. Broccoli is best served al dente. Few vegetables are less palatable than overcooked, soggy broccoli, and boiling for too long results in a sulfur smell and quite possibly the loss of most of the nutrients, as well as an unpleasant, mushy texture.
In a Starring Role at: Cavatore Italian Restaurant
Named after a small medieval village in the north of Italy, Cavatore is well worth a visit if you like authentic Italian cuisine. Excellent service and live music will help ensure your meal is one to remember, and there are plenty of wonderful options to choose from on the menu. This restaurant is set in a barn to bring some rustic Texan influence into the mix, and the atmosphere is great.
Try the salmone con teragon, a juicy salmon filet in tarragon sauce. The seasonal carrots and steamed broccoli make a tasty side. You can also enjoy broccoli as a pizza topping, perhaps paired with something meaty like Italian sausage, meatballs or pepperoni, as well as your choice of cheese, and some spinach, tomatoes or mushrooms.
Recipe: Easy Broccoli Salad
Although a lot of people boil their broccoli until tender, then simply drain and serve, if you're looking for new inspiration, you can also use it raw to make a salad. Remember what we said about washing raw broccoli well to remove any dirt or bugs before you begin. And use fresh broccoli for this recipe, not thawed!
This salad makes about six servings. It's best made a day ahead so the flavors can blend and mellow. Feel free to add raisins or seedless grapes, sliced almonds or chopped walnuts and/or diced apples too. If you aren't serving this salad right away, toss the apple pieces in a little lemon or lime juice to prevent them from oxidizing.
- 1 large head fresh broccoli or 2 small ones
- 1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
Chop the top of the broccoli into bite-size pieces, then combine it with the bacon, onion and mozzarella in a bowl. You can keep the stem for a future use. Add any optional ingredients (raisins, nuts, etc). Now stir the mayonnaise with the sugar and vinegar in another bowl until well combined. Pour this dressing over the broccoli mixture and toss to coat. Serve right away or keep refrigerated overnight.
Stay tuned every week to learn more about what's fresh and exciting at the market and discover where you can enjoy the flavorful bounty of the season.