Monday, June 18, 2012

Vegetables : Broccoli

Broccoli is a plant native to the Mediterranean.  It was engineered from cabbage by the ancient Etruscans who were considered to be horticultural geniuses.  When first introduced in England, broccoli was referred to as "Italian asparagus".   Although commercial cultivation dates back to the 1500s, broccoli didn't become a popular food in North America until the early 1920s.

Since then broccoli - as well as it's relative cauliflower - has undergone many changes.  It is now available in purple and orange as well as the natural green.

Another variation of the broccoli plant that you can try is broccoflower which is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower.  

Then there is also Broccolini which is a cross between broccoli and kale.  This is also sometimes known as baby broccoli.  This has a sharper taste than broccoli and is especially good when stir-fried. In fact I personally prefer it to broccoli.

Regardless of which version of broccoli you choose, they all have very similar health benefits.

Health benefits of eating Broccoli

Broccoli is often called a "super food" and for very good reason.  Here are some of the benefits of eating broccoli on a regular basis :
  • Broccoli contains beta-carotene and vitamin C which are important antioxidants that have been linked to a reduced risk of numerous conditions, including cataracts, heart disease and several cancers.
  • Broccoli is also an important calcium source for those who don't consume dairy products.  Calcium not only builds strong bones, it has also been shown to play a role in the control of high blood pressure, and it may work to prevent colon cancer.
  • Broccoli is a rich source of fibre. Being half soluble and half insoluble fibre, it helps meet your needs for both types.
  • Since broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable it contains two important phytochemicals - indoles and isothiocyanates - that increase the activity of a group of enzymes in our bodies that squelch cancer-causing agents

How to grow Broccoli

Spacing :  In a square foot garden you will need one 12 inch square for each broccoli plant you grow.

Broccoli can easily be grown from either seed or starter plants.  It likes well-drained soil, and because it thrives in cool temperatures it can be planted early in the spring and is among one of the first crops you can expect from your garden.  

The nice thing about broccoli is that you can easily get more than one crop from one plant.

Once the first head is ready, just cut it off at the stem, then leave the plant to keep growing.

In a few weeks you will start getting side shoots - smaller little heads - which you can then cut and eat as well.  I've sometimes managed to get 3 or 4 cuttings from one plant.

Here are a few videos on how to grow broccoli.

This video shows how to grow broccoli from seed.

And this video shows how two get several crops from one plant. 

There are many reasons to make broccoli in it's many forms a regular staple in your diet, and since it is so easy to prepare there is no reason why you shouldn't do so.

Simple steamed broccoli served with salt, pepper, butter, and a squeeze of lemon is a delicious accompaniment to any meal.

And stir-frying with a bit of hot sauce and/or soy sauce really brings out it's flavour.  Add some strips of beef or chicken and a sprinkling of sesame seeds, and you have a delicious and very healthy dinner.

Today's inspirational garden - with broccoli -  is from

    "Almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment, can be confused with paradise."
                                                                                                                                - Henry Mitchell

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