What is Broccoli?
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) is a cruciferous vegetable with a flowering head, stalk, and small leaves. This vegetable is part of the mustard family and is considered a type of cabbage. This cruciferous vegetable can be consumed raw or cooked with steaming being one of the most popular methods of preparation.
- The United States is the third-largest producer of this vegetable in the world.
- A survey conducted in 2018 found that this was the most popular vegetable in half of all the states in the country.
Some common ways to use it in the kitchen are:
- Stir fry
- Rice bowls
Origin of broccoli
At the beginning of time, many plants were considered poisonous or dangerous, including vegetables. However, according to archeological evidence, humans began cultivating their food between 8,000 to 9,000 BC. This early cultivation happened near the Mediterranean Sea, where early people had access to both fertile land and water. The ancient Romans were responsible for the growth and development of many vegetables.
This was cultivated in modern-day Italy during ancient Roman times. As trade routes expanded and horticulture advanced, vegetables were transported to more parts of the world. Broccoli reached the New World around the 17th century, where it was also further cultivated. Nowadays, this cruciferous vegetable can be enjoyed all over the world and has a reputation as a healthy and nutritious food.
Here’s what you can get from 1 cup of broccoli:
It contains plenty of nutrients such as vitamins C & K, iron, and potassium. It is also a good source of fiber and has more protein than most other vegetables. This vegetable provides several health benefits such as protecting the body against cancer, lowering cholesterol, and boosting eye health. However, there are concerns around the effects cruciferous vegetables can have on some individuals when consumed in excess.
This vegetable is a cool-season crop, which can be planted in the spring or autumn. The optimal temperature for this plant is 60-65°F and it takes about 75-140 weeks for it to grow. Broccoli is usually grown outdoors on raised beds and can grow with a wide range of soils, although proper irrigation is vital to this crop’s success. This vegetable is harvested by hand for fresh consumption, as there is no available technology for mechanically harvesting it. It is then packaged fresh and shipped off for distribution.
This vegetable does not have a long shelf life, so it’s best to consume it fresh. When storing, you should mist the unwashed heads and loosely wrap them in damp paper towels and refrigerate. If stored like this, the vegetable can last for 2-3 days. If you want to freeze broccoli, simply cut it into pieces, quickly steam or blanch them, cool them with cold water, allow them to dry, and then freeze the pieces. When using this method, you can keep this vegetable in the freezer for up to 12 months.
This is a versatile vegetable and can be cooked to suit any palate. Here are some popular recipes:
- Broccoli Cheese Soup
- Caramelized Broccoli with Garlic
- Grilled Beef with Broccoli
- Crispy Roasted Broccoli with Tahini Sauce
- Creamy Broccoli Mac and Cheese
The Food & Drug Administration has very specific regulations regarding the production of broccoli to minimize microbial food safety hazards. Both domestic and international producers of this food music adhere to this regulation which addresses cleanliness, quality control, and best practices. Fresh foods that are cut also have a separate regulation that addresses production, sanitation, and operations which are approved by the FDA. These production standards aim to reduce the amount of foodborne illness in the United States.
Mullaney, Sara, and Maggie Weinroth. “Broccoli.” Food Source Information, Colorado State University, fsi.colostate.edu/broccoli1/.
“Broccoli America’s Favorite Vegetable, Survey Says.” Vegetable Growers News, Great American Media Services & Vegetable Growers News, 13 June 2018, vegetablegrowersnews.com/news/broccoli-americas-favorite-vegetable-survey-says/.
Black, Kenneth. “The History of Fruits & Vegetables.” Gardenguides.com, Garden Guides, 3 Sept. 2020, www.gardenguides.com/82843-history-fruits-vegetables.html.
“Broccoli.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 14 Feb. 2020, www.britannica.com/plant/broccoli.