Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable high in antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta carotene. Broccoli is also a healthy source of dietary fiber, protein, folic acid, calcium and iron. Because of the wealth of nutrients and antioxidants they contains, experts recommend consuming a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli several times a week. But to safely consume fresh broccoli, in raw or cooked form, consumers must first thoroughly clean it.
Removing Leaves and Blemishes
A necessary part of the broccoli cleaning process is removing the broccoli leaves and trimming and peeling the stalk, as well as any fibrous or coarse areas, with a paring knife. If parts of the broccoli are discolored or appear to be bruised or blemished in some way, these damaged areas should be cut away, as bacteria can thrive in these areas.
Broccoli is commonly infected with aphids on the undersides of its leaves, and three types of cabbage worms. The three species of cabbage worms that attack broccoli leaves and heads are imported cabbage worms, which are green caterpillars; cabbage loopers, which are smooth, light green caterpillars; and diamondback worms, which are small pale green caterpillars with pointy heads and tails. To remove these and other insects and worms, broccoli should be soaked, head down, for half an hour in cold salt water with a ratio of 1 tsp. of salt to each quart of water. After the salt-water soak, the broccoli must be drained and thoroughly rinsed under running water.
For extra protection against bacteria, broccoli can be cleaned with a vinegar or lemon solution. Add 1 part vinegar or limon juice to 3 parts water, and use it to spray down broccoli, carefully wetting down all the crevices and textured areas of the broccoli. Or soak broccoli in a bowl of a vinegar or lemon mixture; consumers can remove up to 98 percent of bacteria on fresh produce using these methods. After spraying or soaking the broccoli in the vinegar solution, it should be rinsed with cold water. Soaking broccoli too long, however, can cause it to lose water soluble nutrients.
Thoroughly drying broccoli off with a clean cloth, or paper towels, wipes away any lingering bacteria and prevents it from becoming limp and moldy in the refrigerator, if not all of the broccoli is used directly after washing. Broccoli should be cut or prepared on disinfected, dry surfaces.
References and ResourcesNPR.org; What Does It Take to Clean Fresh Food?; Allison Aubrey; September 2007
University of Illinois Extension: Watch Your Garden Grow: Broccoli
Ohio State University; Selecting, Storing and Serving Ohio Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts and Cauliflower; 2009