What’s so good about Broccoli?
by Sarah la Touche
It’s tasty, it’s versatile, and most of all, and it’s packed with goodness. A popular member of the brassica family, which includes other health enhancing greens like cabbages, cress, mustard greens, kale, collards and cauliflower, Broccoli is a wonderfully rich source of carotenoids (vitamin A), lutein and zeaxanthin, known to slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. These beneficial properties also lend a helping hand in preventing cardiovascular disease.
Broccoli is high in vitamin C, (about 80mg/100g) but remember, cooking destroys vitamin C, so if you can, enjoy your broccoli raw, blanched or lightly steamed to preserve its potent C power.
Broccoli is one of the best sources of Vitamin K, and also packs a good punch of selenium, an important mineral and antioxidant lacking in New Zealand soils and so vital to a healthy immune system, healthy bowels, thyroid and prostate amongst its many other functions.
This great green contains good amounts of coenzyme Q10 another antioxidant vital for energy production, as well as sulphur-rich isothiocyanates, quercetin and lignans (phyto-estrogens).
It is the isothiocyanates that are so beneficial that get to work in reducing the risk of the development and spreading of cancer such as bladder, colon and prostate, inducing enzymes that repair damaged DNA. Cooking broccoli destroys these fabulous active compounds, so lightly steamed, stir-fried or eaten raw is best. Finely chop it into salads or fold it through rice and noodle dishes. Pop a fistful of broccoli into a slow cooked braise or curry laced with plenty of turmeric, right at the end just before serving. Or – best of all – add a stem and floret or two to your morning smoothie or fresh green juice.
Broccoli sprouts are significantly higher in all these health-giving properties especially isothiocyanates, and have been found to significantly reduce populations of helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that can cause gastric ulcers and stomach cancer.
How to use Broccoli?
You can eat most parts of the broccoli plant once it is washed well. If you can, buy organically grown where possible.
The ‘flower’ or florets as they are called, are the most tender part of the plant but the thick main stem trimmed of its outer skin is succulent and crunchy. The leaves can be tough but high in alkalising chlorophyll so good for juicing or added to a smoothie.
Break up the florets and steam lightly or blanch in boiling water for 1 – 5 minutes, You can add small florets to a hearty stir-fry, they marry well with Tamari or Mirin sauce and some quality, lean protein like beef, prawns or tempeh. If you have a dehydrator slice the florets keeping the slices as thin and whole you can to make crunchy broccoli chips.
Chop the whole ‘head’ of a medium sized broccoli to a fine bread-crummy texture and use as a base for a cold or warm salad. Fold it through lentil and bean dishes or pasta, or fold through a few spices, a little garlic and lemon zest, and use it as a crunchy topping for soups. Remember, the smaller the pieces, the faster they cook. If you have a food processor, you can use the grating or slicing blades to process the whole of the head for a faster, more even result.
Create a great spread for toast or sandwiches by blending it raw to a smooth paste with olive oil, fresh herbs, and garlic, half an avocado and Karengo fronds. Who needs butter!
The following salad is a tasty, goodness-packed way to eat this delicious green.
Serves 6 – 8
3 cups fresh broccoli florets (about 1.5 medium broccoli heads)
1 cup broken Wakame seaweed sheets
2 oranges, peeled and cubed
1 medium cucumber, sliced or cubed
1 cup walnut kernels, lightly toasted
Juice of 1 orange
1 -2 tablespoons white Miso
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 red onion, peeled and sliced thinly across the width of the onion
2 tablespoons Mirin
1 – 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds to garnish
Break up the broccoli florets to quite small (size of a small plum), and steam over boiling water for no more than 5 minutes, or blanch in boiling water for 3 – 5 minutes.
Refresh in ice cold water immediately to arrest the cooking process then drain in a colander. Better still keep them raw.
Soak the Wakame in water for approximately 3 minutes then drain. Place the broccoli and Wakame in a salad bowl, add the oranges, cucumber and walnuts.
Combine the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad.
Toss, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, and serve.