Broccoli is part of the brassica family of vegetables (also known as cruciferous vegetables) that includes cabbage and Brussels sprouts. It has been around since Roman times and still popular in Italy; the name comes from the Italian word broccoli meaning the flowering crest of a cabbage. We eat the large flowering head of the plant. Broccolini is a newer incarnation with long slender stems and smaller heads, and also known as sprouting broccoli – they are nutritionally the same. They all contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals including sulforaphane. Broccoli is also a good source of the B vitamin folate for a healthy heart, vitamin C for immunity and fibre for digestive health.
To retain its nutritional goodness and “fight-o-chemical” power, cook broccoli as lightly as possible – do not boil. As with all vegetables, broccoli can be lightly steamed or microwaved and dressed with a little extra virgin olive oil and perhaps lemon juice, pepper, chilli, or herbs of your choice. For an Asian direction, try soy, honey and sesame seeds. Take care not to overcook and leave some crispness and the rich green colour. To ensure the stems cook through before the florets go mushy, cut a cross into the base of the stem with a small sharp knife to quicken cooking. For added delight, sprinkle over slivered almonds (or any nut really) that have been gently toasted.