Broccoli can be the vegetable you love the most or the one you can hardly stand! I have heard people in grocery stores say, “Broccoli, Love it or Leave it.” So what is this strange little plant that so many feel so strongly for or against? Broccoli is a green plant that is a part of the cabbage family. It has a large flowering head, a fibrous stalk, and small leaves.
WHERE DID BROCCOLI COME FROM?
Broccoli apparently got its start on the Italian peninsula during the ancient Roman Empire. Italian immigrants spread it into northern Europe in the 18th century and on into North America in the following century. Most people in North America viewed broccoli as a strange “foreign” kind of vegetable until WWII. Broccoli does not store as well as its cousin cabbage and this slowed its usage in North America. After WWII, as refrigeration became more available, broccoli came into much wider usage. As the demand and search for healthier foods came into being in the 1970s so did the demand for fresh and frozen broccoli. By the early ’80s the consumption of broccoli in North America had quadrupled. Twenty-seven million tons of broccoli were produced in 2020 with about 73% of that being grown in China and India. Broccoli grows best in moderate temperatures, with California being the largest producer in the USA. Broccoli can be difficult to harvest and is usually harvested more by hand than many of its relatives such as cabbage, kale and cauliflower.
HOW CAN WE USE BROCCOLI?
Broccoli traditionally was boiled or steamed and served as a side-dish. Generations ago it became part of many stir-fried dishes using a variety of meats and spices as flavorings. Today broccoli is often used fresh and served with a large assortment of flavorful dips. Boiling broccoli can reduce its characteristic glucosinolate compounds.
Fresh broccoli has been growing in popularity year after year as the desire for healthier foods has grown. Today, many people consider it to be one of the finest of fresh vegetables. Raw broccoli contains about 89% water, 7% carbohydrates and 3% protein. Research in the 20th century showed that broccoli was a rich source of vitamin A and this drove its rise in popularity. It is also an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K. Broccoli is a source of sulfur-containng glucosinolate compounds. Raw broccoli provides a moderate amount of several B vitamins and a broad assortment of trace minerals such as manganese, magnesium, zinc and potassium. Broccoli has long been considered one of natures superfoods. It provides its best nutrients when consumed raw.
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