Broccoli means “little sprouts” in Italian. It’s part of the Brassica family of vegetables which includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoflower, Asian varieties of cabbage, turnips and swedes.
This popular vegetable is technically a giant bundle of unopened flowers and has a mild mustard flavour while providing a vibrant green colour that is enhanced with cooking.
There are many commonly grown varieties of broccoli around the world.
The most familiar is Calabrese broccoli, referred to simply as “broccoli”, named after Calabria in Italy. It has large (10 to 20 cm) green heads and thick stalks.
Romanesco broccoli is a variety which has light green clusters of heads that are pointed and look a bit like coral. Supply is limited in New Zealand.
Chinese broccoli – also known as Chinese sprouting broccoli or Chinese kale (gaai laan) – has long green stems (about 2 cm in diameter and 20 cm long), white flowers and green leaves which have a white haze on them. The flowers should be in bud rather than in full bloom
Broccolini or Slender Stems is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli (gaai laan). It has a long slender stem topped with small flowering buds that are a cross between broccoli florets and an asparagus tip.
One of the most popular vegetables, broccoli stalks, buds and leaves are all edible. Broccoli pairs well with other vegetables such as cauliflower, mushroom, leek, onion, shallot and citrus. Keep it simple and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and chargrill or roast for a nutty flavour. Or stir-fry with sauces like soy, tamari, oyster, hoisi, and proteins like beef, chicken, prawns.
Broccoli is enhanced with ginger, garlic, chilli and anchovy. Nuts such as almond, peanut and walnuts make a great crunchy addition to broccoli dishes. Julienned broccoli stem is a great addition to slaws, salads and stir-fries. Raw broccoli can be blitzed to make “broccoli rice”. Or cut into florets for a raw salad. Raw broccoli with cranberries, almonds and a creamy mayo is a popular dish in many café cabinets, but there are a number of ways you can change up a raw broccoli salad, from the dressing – a vinaigrette or herby green goddess both work well – to the addition of bacon and pecans which are both delicious flavour combinations.
Use Broccolini on a veggie breakfast with some haloumi, mushrooms and eggs. Broccoli and Broccolini also pair well with dairy products such as feta, ricotta, butter and yoghurt.
Broccoli is best stored in the chiller at 0°C with a relative humidity of 90–100%. Broccoli is very ethylene sensitive, so store separately from ethylene producing fruits and vegetables. To preserve it for longer, sprinkle with water, wrap in paper towels and keep in a plastic bag.
Store Broccolini in a tightly sealed plastic bag in the chiller.
Broccoli is grown throughout New Zealand with the lion’s share coming out of the Manawatū-Whanganui region and greater Auckland followed closely by Canterbury. The balance of the volume comes out of the Tasman, Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay regions.