Broccoli is a super health food. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are heart-healthy and some studies indicate they have anti-cancer potential. This green vegetable is high in vitamins C and K, high in fiber and low in calories. It is a marvelous food. The chunky green stalks and dense florets are rich in nutrients. The fresh vegetable freezes well. Selecting fresh broccoli for serving raw or cooked is an easy task.
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Understand that broccoli is a cool season crop that grows best from October to April. Though it is available year-round, prices may be lower and quality higher in the winter. Just when salad season is over, broccoli takes center shelf in the produce market. It is versatile and can be eaten alone or blended with other vegetables for a medley.
The thick green stalk is topped by an edible flower head of small buds. The flower heads or florets should be darker green than the stalk. Choose stalks that are firm but not tough or rubbery. The stalks are edible and can be trimmed. Flower heads should be compact and tight.
Florets, the flower bud heads, are broccoli heads with the stalks trimmed off. Florets are sold in markets usually at a slightly higher price than regular full head broccoli. The florets cook more quickly than the stalks. Florets are richer in beta-carotene than stalks. Florets can be quickly separated into smaller crowns by cutting the main stem and separating the smaller branched heads. These are perfect in salads or vegetable trays.
The individual buds on the florets should be dense and closed. Bud bunches that are purple-green or dark green are higher in beta-carotene and vitamin C than yellow or pale green buds. Do not choose broccoli with buds that are opening or showing yellow flowers. These are over-mature.
Broccoli is very perishable. It keeps best if stored unwashed in an open plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper. The broccoli should be used within a day or two after purchasing. Wash before cooking or serving.
Broccoli contains fat-soluble vitamins. These vitamins need fat to be released for use in the body. Serve or cook with cheese or oil to get the most benefit from broccoli nutrients.