Closely related to cauliflower broccoli has been dubbed ‘the crown jewel of nutrition’ because of its potent combination of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. The word broccoli comes from the Italian plural ‘broccolo’ meaning ‘the flowering crest of cabbage’, they have dark green flowing tops and thick, light green stems.
They were first introduced in the US in the 1700s where Thomas Jefferson experimented cultivating them. Although it wasn’t until the 1920s that commercial cultivation began in the US. Furthermore, it wasn’t until after world war II that it became a significant commercial crop.
- Broccoli has been considered a very valuable food by the Italians since the Roman Empire, but when first introduced in England in the mid-18th century, broccoli was referred to as “Italian asparagus.”
- It was first introduced to the United States by Southern Italian immigrants but did not become widely popular until the 1920s
- There are records of Thomas Jefferson, who was an avid gardener, experimenting with broccoli seeds brought over from Italy in the late 1700s.
- Broccoli resulted from breeding cultivated Brassica crops in the north Mediterranean in around the 6th century BC
When buying broccoli dense, dark green florets are the way to go. It should feel slightly heavy for its size with green stalks. Avoid dry and browning plants.
Production & Farming in Texas
Broccoli has been cultivated since before the start of the roman empire. When it was first introduced to England in the 18th century they called it ‘Italian asparagus’. There are three main varieties of broccoli:
Calabrese broccoli: The most common form, named after the Calabrese region in Italy, they grow 10-20cm heads and thick stalks.
Sprouting broccoli: has more heads with many thin stalks.
Purple cauliflower: Grown in Europe and North America, shaped like cauliflower and consist of many tiny flower buds. It sometimes has a purple cast on the tips.
Most forms of broccoli don’t do well in hot weather due to insect infestation. They prefer cool temperatures and full sun. They fair their best in sandy, slightly acidic soil and outside temperature of 63°f – 73°f. Seeds should be planted 1/2 inch deep and around approximately 3 inches apart, in rows 36 inches apart. Transplanting should be done 4-6 weeks after sowing and require they lots of water.
The most common broccoli pest in cabbage worms. Bought to America by mistake in the 1860s. Uneven holes and curling in leaves may be a sign of pests.
Yellow broccoli may be a sign of nitrogen deficiency.
Worldwide broccoli and cauliflower production came in at 26 million tonnes in 2017. 73% of which came from India and China. Followed by the US, Spain, Mexico, and Italy. All producing 1 million tonnes or under.
California is responsible for 92% of US broccoli production and 95% of fresh sales.
Harvesting & Packaging:
Broccoli is best harvested in the morning while florets are still tight. If there are any signs of yellowing petals harvest immediately. along with 6 inches of stem. Stems should be cut at an angle because water can pool and rot in the center otherwise. Side shoots on broccoli will continue to grow after harvest.
Often times at supermarkets broccoli gets wrapped in plastic. For best produce find broccoli at your local farmers market.
Broccoli can be eaten raw or cooked. One ounce of broccoli has the equivalent calcium of one ounce of milk. The best way to eat broccoli is steamed.
Broccoli can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days but should never be stored in a sealed bag or container as it requires airflow. Do not wash before refrigerating either as this will promote mold. Wrap loosely in a damp paper towel and store in the crisper drawer for the best results.
Alternatively, you can place the broccoli stem in ice-cold water and cover the top with a damp paper towel, changing the water on a daily basis.
Which method of cooking you use for broccoli cans severely alter it. Boiling it will significantly reduce its nutrient content as well as diminish color and flavor. For most nutritious results steam your broccoli until tender, but still crisp, about 5-7 minutes. Do not wash your broccoli until you’re ready to prepare it. Stir-frying, steaming and microwaving have no massive effect on nutrition.
When cooking stems separately throw them in 1-2 minutes earlier as they will take longer too cook.
Broccoli is a particularly high source of vitamins C and K. It also boasted much more protein than most vegetables at 3% per cup and only has 31 calories per cup. Its sulfur-containing glucosinolate compounds, isothiocyanates, and sulforaphane are diminished by boiling but better preserved.
Thiamine (B1) 6% 0.071 mg
Riboflavin (B2) 10% 0.117 mg
Niacin (B3) 4% 0.639 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5) 11% 0.573 mg
Vitamin B6 13% 0.175 mg
Folate (B9) 16% 63 μg
Choline 4% 19 mg
Vitamin C 107% 89.2 mg
Vitamin E 5% 0.78 mg
Vitamin K 97% 101.6 μg
Minerals Quantity% DV†
Calcium 5% 47 mg
Iron 6% 0.73 mg
Magnesium 6% 21 mg
Manganese 10% 0.21 mg
Phosphorus 9% 66 mg
Potassium 7% 316 mg
Sodium 2% 33 mg
Zinc 4% 0.41 mg
When Are Broccoli in Season in Texas?
To find out when Broccoli are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.