Because of its impressive nutritional profile that includes beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium, fiber, and phytochemicals, specifically indoles and aromatic isothiocynates, broccoli and its kin may be responsible for boosting certain enzymes that help to detoxify the body. These enzymes help to prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure.
Broccoli along with onions, carrots, and cabbage may also help to lower blood cholesterol. Researchers have found broccoli equally as effective as some cholesterol lowering drugs.
Look for compact crowns that have dark green, blue-green, or the purplish-green, tightly closed buds with dark green leaves that are strong and upright. Intense colors are a good indicator of hearty nutritional content. Yellow or yellowish-green broccoli heads and leaves indicate the vegetable is not fresh and has lost nutrients. Pass on the limp stalks and choose only sturdy, crisp, bright green stems.
Look carefully at the cut ends of the broccoli stalks and choose those that are completely closed. The stalks that have open cores on the bottom tend to be older, woodier, and tougher.
Allow 1/2 pound per serving. A medium bunch, about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds, will serve 3 to 4 people.
Wrap your broccoli in a plastic bag or plastic wrap and refrigerate as soon after purchase as possible. Though this vegetable is a great keeper and will still look good several days later, it's best if used within three days after purchase.
Refrigeration is a good way to protect broccoli's nutrients, especially the vitamin C, which is easily lost if not kept cold. Quite often, broccoli is shipped to market in boxes packed with ice.
Another storage suggestion, though uncommon, is to submerge the stem portions of an entire bunch of broccoli into a wide-mouthed pitcher filled with ice water. Cover the broccoli crowns loosely with a plastic bag, and change the ice water daily. This unique method will keep the bunch fresh and crisp for a whole week.
Never wash broccoli before storing in the refrigerator. The excess moisture promotes mold.
Frozen broccoli contains about 35% more beta carotene than the fresh because the frozen packages consist mainly of the florets. Most of the beta carotene is stored in the florets. But don't jump too quickly. There's plenty of nutrition in those stems, such as extra calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.
The darker colors of the florets, such as blue green, or purplish green contain more beta carotene and vitamin C than those with lighter greens.
Recipe Dip for Cooked Broccoli:
1/2 head broccoli
16 ounces fat free or low fat sour cream
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon basil crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cut broccoli into flowerets. Boil in 1 cup water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.Place broccoli in blender with 1/4 cup of the sour cream. Blend until smooth, stopping and scraping down sides occasionally.
Pour into bowl, mix in remaining sour cream, cheese, basil and salt.
Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Serve with assorted crackers, chips and fresh sliced vegetables, carrots, celery, and of course more raw broccoli!
Makes 2 1/4 cups.