Broccoli is a member of the Brassica family, a collection of pungent vegetables which includes cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts and mustard plants.
Broccoli originated in Italy, where it is called broccolo meaning “cabbage sprout”. Broccoli was cultivated from wild cabbage in Roman times. From the Mediterranean it spread to the East, and was brought to America by Italian immigrants in colonial times.
Common varieties of broccoli
There are many varieties of broccoli varying in colour from purple to green. Varieties include:
Premium green - compact green head, ideal for year round growing.
Sprouting broccoli - bluish purple heads, ideal for colder areas.
Violet Sicilian - a cross between cauliflower and broccoli with rosy-violet florets.
Raab - ideal for eating raw and in salads.
Broccolini - a cross between broccoli and gaai lan (Chinese broccoli), long slender stems with small florets.
Broccoli is one of the most widely researched members of the brassica family and is renowned for its health giving properties. Broccoli is known to have a protective effect against cancer. It also contains a wide range of phytochemicals which protect against many chronic diseases. Broccoli is also a good source of beta carotene, vitamin C, folate and fibre.
Selecting and storing broccoli
Select broccoli with florets that are compact and not bruised. The head should have a uniform colour without the presence of any yellow flowers starting to blossom. The stalk and stems should be firm and ensure the leaves are not starting to wilt.
Store in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper, for up to a week.
To freeze, cut into small pieces around 2-3 cm in size. Wash. Blanch for 3 minutes. Plunge into cold water to cool. Then drain well, pack, and freeze. Broccoli can be frozen for up to a year.
Broccoli is a popular vegetable used in many dishes. It can be steamed, boiled, stir-fried, casseroled or microwaved.
For a bit of variety try some of these great broccoli recipes:
Broccoli and Kumara Couscous
Broccoli, Cauliflower and Lentil Gratin
Gado Gado Vegetables
How to grow your own broccoli
Broccoli can be grown throughout Australia with different varieties hardier than others.
Sow seeds in seed trays in mid-spring, once the seedling begins to develop secondary leaves transplant into pots until they are about 10-15cm tall. Transplant into rows in early summer, plant about 60cm apart.
Ensure the soil is well drained, fertile and rich in lime. Choose a warm sunny site with protection from the wind.
Seedlings can also be bought which can be planted straight into the garden.