Broccoli, Brassica oleracea: “The Original Superfood”
Fraternity boys the world over proclaim: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” I propose a variation: “Broccoli is proof that God loves us and wants us to be healthy.” Before “superfood,” there was broccoli. Forget “super,” this gem is a knock-down, drag-out, voodoo-princess food. Not only that, but you can pair it with a hearty pint of beer and some melted cheese. I’m a believer.
Above: The White House garden, spring of 2011. Among the vegetables cultivated: romaine lettuce, spinach, chard, broccoli, carrots, and kale. Photograph by Quentin Bacon for American Grown, courtesy of Crown.
For more, see Steal This Look: Michelle Obama’s White House Garden.
Above: Photograph by Erin Boyle. For more, see Recipe: Ottolenghi’s Chargrilled Broccoli with Chile and Garlic.
Broccoli grows well near all other plants in the brassica family, as well as potatoes, aromatic herbs, and beets. Tomatoes, strawberries, and beans can inhibit growth. As a quicker-growing and taller crop, it does well planted with low and slow vegetables such as carrots or onions.
- There are three main types of broccoli: “Calabrese,” the traditional full-heading type, “Sprouting Broccoli,” which has many thin-stemmed sprouts, and “Purple Broccoli,” which produces a loose bunch of bright purple florets.
- Broccoli Raab, or rapini, actually in the turnip family, can be grown and enjoyed in the same way.
- Varieties come in many colors; can be ornamental if grown in a flower bed.
Above: Photograph by Katharine Huber. For more, see Dee’s Story: From Debris Pile to Edible Garden, in Four Months.
Keep It Alive
- Hot temperatures prevent broccoli from heading up, so plant early in the spring or in late August to beat the heat.
- Amend your bed with compost as broccoli feeds heavily, and keep the moisture consistent.
- When you harvest, cut at an angle to prevent rotting in the stem–and come back for seconds and thirds.
Harvest the leaves as you go and cook as you would kale or collards. Interplant with marigolds, multiple colors of broccoli, and herbs like dill, chamomile or sage, for pest prevention, visual interest, and boosted growth.
Above:Heirloom broccoli seeds. Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.
Above: Photograph by Erin Boyle.
Repeat after me: I shall not overcook broccoli. Try flash-steaming. As soon as it turns bright green, turn off the heat. Your phytonutrient levels and taste buds will thank you. For more, see Recipe: Ottolenghi’s Chargrilled Broccoli with Chile and Garlic.
For more of our favorite cruciferous vegetables, see:
- Recipe: Ottolenghi’s Chargrilled Broccoli with Chile and Garlic.
- Garden-to-Table Recipe: Mollie Katzen’s Smoky Brussels Sprouts and Onions.
- Irresistible Vegetable Soup in 30 Minutes or Less.
Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for broccoli with our Broccoli: A Field Guide.
Interested in other edible plants for your garden? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various edible plants (including flowers, herbs and vegetables) with our Edible Plants: A Field Guide.