Crisp florets and tender stems make broccoli a favorite vegetable for salads and stir-fries as well as dipping, boiling and steaming. While related to cabbage and cauliflower, broccoli's milder, less earthy taste also makes it a terrific addition to soups and casseroles. The tiny tips of each floret are actually the buds of the plant.
- “Sprouting” broccoli, also known as Calabrese, is the most common.
- Other varieties and hybrids include:
- Broccolini– This is the trademarked name for baby broccoli - a cross of broccoli with Chinese kale.
- Purple – Smaller in size; no difference in taste.
- Broccoflower/romanesco – Cauliflower and broccoli cross. Looks like the former – only green – and tastes like the latter.
- Chinese broccoli – Also called Chinese kale, Gai Lan, and white flowering broccoli.
Frozen broccoli is available as florets or chopped. Broccoli sprouts may also be found in some health food markets.
- Peak season for best pricing is typically in cooler months. However, newer cultivars are successfully producing in warmer months.
- Look for crowns of solid green (or those with a hint of blue or purple). Avoid yellow or wilting broccoli or those that have already begun to exhibit open buds.
- Thicker stalks are tougher.
- Broccoli will keep for about seven days in the refrigerator. Allow for air circulation.
- Do not store with items such as apples, pears, and tomatoes. These emit gases that will cause broccoli to ripen quickly.
- Fresh broccoli will freeze well; blanch first and it will keep for about twelve months.
- Always remove wilted or yellowing sections.
- Soak first to dislodge debris and insects.
- When using in a stir-fry, add broccoli first to be sure it is cooked. As an alternative, parboil ahead of time.
- Even if serving fresh in a salad or as a plain side, blanch first.
- The stalks are very tasty, but may take longer to cook. Separate from florets and trim the outer layer. Slice and add to boiling or steaming water first.
- Sauté in olive oil and add to pasta