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Fresh Idea:; Broccoli

Taranaki Daily News

12-31-08

This article was written by a contributor. It is not to be reproduced without permission from the Taranaki Daily News and charges may be incurred.

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BROCCOLI means "little sprouts" in Italian. The vegetable is part of the brassica family, which includes cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoflower, Asian varieties of cabbage, turnips and swedes. Popular and widely eaten with a distinctive mustardy taste, broccoli is incredibly good for you. The stalks, buds and most of the leaves are edible.

The most popular is sprouting broccoli, or calabrese. The heads should be dark bluish green with firm stalks that snap easily. Avoid if the leaves or buds are yellowed. Romanesco broccoli has light green clusters of heads that are pointed. Broccolini is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli. It has long, slender stems topped with small flowering buds. Purple broccoli tends to have smaller heads, but aside from the colour, is identical to sprouting broccoli.

It is one of the most nutritious vegetables: an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins C, E and A, fibre, folate, calcium, iron and potassium. It's also a rich source of phytochemicals. Sulphoraphane, a compound formed from broccoli glucosinolates when broccoli is cut or chewed, has been found by scientists to inhibit the development of some cancers. Purple broccoli has even high levels of vitamin C, folate, iron and calcium and in addition contains anthocyanins, which have antioxidant activity.

Trim the stalks and divide the head into even portions. You can eat the stalks attached to the florets, or remove them and slice them finely and use in stir-fries and soups.

Cook only until crisp-tender, either by steaming, microwaving or stir- frying. Overcooking destroys the flavour and nutritional value. You can also eat raw or lightly blanched (place portions for one minute in boiling water, then plunge in cold water) in salads or with dips. Add to pasta dishes, omelettes, quiches, soups and stir- fries. Or eat it just by itself - try it with a little lemon juice.

It's available year round but is highly perishable. Buy small quantities and use promptly. Store in the fridge in a plastic bag.

* From Vegetables, a User's Guide, by Glenda Gourley for Horticulture New Zealand. For details, see vegetables.co.nz

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