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Broccoli today:This cruciferous veggie offers disease-fighting phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals 

Kentucky-grown broccoli is a treat, and we can enjoy its fresh flavor from May through early July, and from October through mid-November. We are very fortunate that broccoli is available in most grocery stores year round. 

Broccoli, which has become popular in the United States only since World War II, derives its name from an Italian word meaning “sprout” or “shoot” —a reference to the flower shoots that develop on the plant’s stem. As a member of the cabbage family, it is related to Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as cabbage. 

If you do not have a garden of your own, farmers markets offer, along with other seasonal fruits and vegetables, broccoli picked at the peak of ripeness.

Broccoli is packed with vitamins and minerals that promote health, and it also contains phytochemicals that help fight disease. A half-cup serving of cut broccoli has more fiber (1 gram) than a slice of whole-wheat bread, and broccoli is low in fat and calories (only 22 calories when cooked). Research shows that individuals who eat diets that are high in fiber and low in fat have a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers — good reasons to try to eat broccoli at least once a week, especially when it is in season.

Broccoli is a good source of vitamin A, which is needed for vision, normal growth, reproduction and a healthy immune system. Vitamin A is also an antioxidant, which means it helps fight disease. Since the leaves of broccoli contain much more vitamin A than the buds, they, too, are worth adding to the diet of Kentuckians.

Broccoli is also an excellent source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which plays a vital role in fighting infection, keeping gums healthy and healing wounds. Just one serving of broccoli provides over 100 percent of our daily need for vitamin C. And, vitamin C, like vitamin A, is a disease-fighting antioxidant.

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are known for containing isothiocyanates and indoles, phytochemicals that are thought to bolster the body’s natural ability to ward off cancer. Green vegetables, including broccoli, contain lutein, another phytochemical with health benefits.

Choose tender, young, dark green stalks with tightly closed buds. Buds with yellow flowers or wilting or thick stems indicate the broccoli is old and tough.

Farmers markets generally have a good selection of broccoli to pick from if you want to freeze broccoli for later use.

Store broccoli, unwashed, in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator, where it will store well for three to five days. The shorter the storage time, the higher broccoli’s nutritional value and the better tasting it will be. 

Wash broccoli just before using under cool, running water. Keep in mind it will mold if left wet. Don’t soak it, because soaking leaches out valuable vitamins and minerals. Trim the leaves and peel the stalk. Cut the stalk into 1-inch diagonal pieces for faster cooking. 

One-and-a-half pounds of broccoli equals 4 half-cup servings. When cooking broccoli, use a small amount of water and cook it only until it is bright green and tender — as briefly as possible to preserve both the crisp texture and the nutrients. If broccoli is over-cooked, it will turn a dark green, almost gray color. This makes it unpleasant to look at, smell and eat.

Tips on

broccoli prep

To steam: After washing broccoli, place it on a rack above boiling water and steam approximately 6 to 8 minutes. For crisp, tender, broccoli, steam fresh broccoli for 4 to 6 minutes; frozen broccoli should be steamed for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

To boil: After washing, place broccoli in a saucepan with 1 inch of boiling water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook for 5 minutes, then cover and cook for 10 to  15 minutes more until broccoli is the desired tenderness. Broccoli can also be cooked with the lid on the entire 15 to 20 minutes. To allow the unpleasant odor associated with cruciferous vegetables to escape, lift the lid a few times. This also protects the green color of the vegetable. Drain and rinse with cold water.

To microwave: After washing, place broccoli in a microwave-safe dish. Add 1 inch of water and cover the dish with a glass lid or plastic wrap. Microwave it for 3 to 4 minutes or until it is crisp-tender. Remove and rinse with cold water.

If you have questions or comments about the column, or if you’d like more information feel free to contact me by email at a.price@uky.edu.

IF YOU GO 

Readers, tomorrow (Thursday, June 7) you have an opportunity to come out to the Extension Office for Lunch and Learn. We will be sampling the broccoli salad recipe from the 2018 Food and Nutrition Calendar. This is a free program but space is limited; please call (859) 236-4484 to register. The event is noon Thursday.