Fresh broccoli makes a great side dish and can be served raw as a vegetable crudité or cooked in stews, casseroles, soups, and so much more. At the grocery store, you have the choice of whole broccoli heads, fresh broccoli florets, or frozen broccoli florets. There are different ways to store broccoli, depending on what kind you buy, as well as what you plan to do with it.
Broccoli is a nutritious choice and gives you Vitamins C and K, iron, potassium, and fiber. It's 90% water and a low-calorie option. What's even better is that it tastes great and most people like it.
Something I recently tried was broccoli tots, which are similar to "Tater Tots" but made with broccoli rather than potatoes. Frozen broccoli works fine for making these although, if I'm serving broccoli by itself as a side dish, I prefer to use the fresh kind because the texture is nicer.
If you want to serve an appetizer platter, why not serve raw broccoli and cauliflower florets with a dipping sauce or two, and maybe some egg puffs too? I promise there won't be any leftovers!
What is Broccoli?
Broccoli (Brassica Oleracea) is a cruciferous vegetable from the cabbage family with a stalk, flowering head, and leaves. It's similar to cauliflower in looks but tastes quite different.
The word "broccoli" comes from the Italian word "broccolo" which means flowering cabbage. It's thought that broccoli dates back to the 6th century and was probably created by breeding different cultivars in the ancient Roman Empire. After that, it was likely introduced to northern Europe by the 18th century and then into North America a century after.
Selective breeding, choosing the best elements from various cultivars, means that modern broccoli variants grow quickly and abundantly and taste good. The most common broccoli cultivars include "Packman", "Premium Crop" and "Marathon."
This cruciferous vegetable has also been bred with other vegetables, such as broccoli with kai-lan (a Chinese vegetable) to make broccolini, also known as "tender stem broccoli." Most cultivars prefer cool weather (between 54°F and 73°F) and don't grow well in hot climates.
Although it can be enjoyed raw, broccoli is typically cooked and can be stir-fried, steamed, boiled, microwaved, grilled, or roasted.
How to Select the Best Broccoli
As is the case with most vegetables, choosing good quality broccoli is largely about how it looks. Choose bright green broccoli with compact florets. The further apart the florets are spread, the older the broccoli is.
The stems should be firm not floppy or cracked. Broccoli with yellow florets isn't the freshest but will work in soups and stews if that's all you can find.
How to Store Broccoli
Depending on where you buy it, broccoli typically comes loose or vacuum-packed in plastic and will be either refrigerated or at room temperature in the market. Let's look at the best way to store your broccoli to keep it fresh for as long as you can, which also preserves its nutritional value.
- Don't wash the broccoli before storing it because excess moisture and excess water can encourage mold growth.
- Keep the broccoli whole or in small pieces in loose, perforated plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or a paper bag, so it can "breathe" and enjoy air circulation.
- Keep it in the crisper drawer if you can, or else on a shelf in the refrigerator.
- Use the head of broccoli within 3-5 days for the best result, although if you're lucky it might last a whole week.
Broccoli also freezes well. Blanch it in hot water for a few minutes then plunge it into a bowl of ice water. The cold water in the ice bath stops the cooking process. Freeze the broccoli stems and florets on a baking sheet and then transfer them into plastic freezer bags or airtight containers. As for cooked broccoli, this will be fine in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag in the fridge for a couple of days.
How to Tell if Broccoli Has Gone Bad
Yellow or brown spots on broccoli are an indication it's begun to go bad, as is any visible mold. While fresh broccoli smells very mild, rotten broccoli has a strong, unpleasant odor. If the vegetable has a dry or cracked stalk or wilted, yellowing or slimy, wet broccoli florets, it's gone bad.
Since broccoli plants are technically flowering plants, some people like to make a "broccoli bouquet" by keeping its florets facing up in the water in a glass. Another idea is to wrap it in a damp paper towel to make broccoli last longer. Whether you choose one of these effective methods or you simply keep it refrigerated, the broccoli should stay fresh for several days.
You can choose any cooking method you like, depending on the flavor or texture you're aiming for. Personally, I love to roast broccoli florets for those wonderful crunchy edges, but air frying is another great way to cook broccoli pieces if you enjoy a crisp result. Another dish I love is cauliflower cheese, but swapping out some of the cauliflower for broccoli.
It depends on what you're planning to make with it. For example, broccoli soup can be made with frozen broccoli and will probably taste just as good. If you want to serve it raw as a crudité or make a simple dish, fresh is best, especially now you know how to store it.
- China produces the most broccoli, followed by India and then the United States.
- Broccoli has to be harvested by hand with a knife, as there is no machine to harvest it.
- As broccoli is a cool-weather crop, it's usually harvested between mid-October and December.
Knowing the best place to store broccoli is knowledge worth having, so you can keep this popular, versatile vegetable fresh and use it in all kinds of delicious recipes.