Did you know there are multiple types of broccoli? Oh yes, there’s a whole world of this deep green veggie.
If you want to be fancy next time you have friends over for dinner, cook broccoli and call it brassica oleracea. Watch as people look confused. That’s the scientific name for this hearty green cruciferous vegetable.
While it’s hard to stop thinking of broccoli as the veggie you were forced to eat as a kid (after all, it tastes bitter and looks funny), there are ways to tame the flavor. You may even grow to love it. First tip: Pay special attention to when it’s in season. It’ll taste best October through April in early spring.
Calabrese broccoli, destiny broccoli, and belstar broccoli — these are the different varieties of broccoli. When you see broccoli in the produce section, it’s like likely one of these. It has a thick stalk and is part of the cabbage family.
Chinese broccoli (Kai lan/gai lan)
Picture kale leaves on a thick stem. That’s Chinese broccoli. As the name implies, it’s poplar in Asian cuisine. It has a sweeter taste than regular broccoli.
Think broccoli but on thinner, longer stalks with smaller heads and a sweeter taste. It’s a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli. You might also compare its appearance to asparagus.
Broccoli raab (rapini)
While it sure looks a lot like a type of broccoli, it’s technically part of the same family as turnips. Italian chefs love to cook with it. Flavor-wise, it’s a little bitter and little earthy.
Think of flower buds that are spikey and exotic looking. That’s romanesco. It’s bitter and crunchy like regular broccoli but a bit earthier.
Broccoli versus broccolini
Broccoli has bigger, rounder florets and heads than broccolini, which is defined by its thinner stems and smaller heads. You may find that broccolini tastes milder than the bitter flavor of broccoli. Broccoli can be eaten cooked and raw, but broccolini is generally better when cooked.
Tips for selecting and storing broccoli
Bright or deep green is a good sign. In general, the greener, the better. You also want the florets to be tight and the stems to be firm. Yellowing florets or softer stems mean it’s not fresh. Make sure that the stalks are not limp nor cracked.
Once you get it home, do not rinse the broccoli, keep it in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer. Even better, take it out of the bag, wrap it in damp paper towels, and then store. If it starts to feel bendy, trim the bottom of the stalk and let it stand upright in a jar of water in the refrigerator overnight. Fresh broccoli should last about one week.
You can also freeze it to make it last longer, but blanch it first by boiling for about 5 minutes and then adding it to an ice bath. Dry in a salad spinner and freeze in a sealed bag. You can store it this way for about 12 months.
The health benefits
Broccoli has several health benefits. It promotes heart health, eye health, and more. Some of its key nutrients are vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin A.
Ways to cook broccoli
Broccoli (whichever variety you choose) can be steamed, broiled, roasted, pan-fried, grilled, or eaten raw in a salad. Broccolini and broccoli raab are particularly tasty when grilled or roasted until slightly charred. Add broccoli to a classic stir-fry or this pasta with cauliflower alfredo sauce. Like cauliflower, you can also rice broccoli a few different ways.