Though broccoli is available year round, it
is a cool-weather vegetable, and its flavor is best from late fall
through early spring. Warm-weather broccoli is less tender and lacks the
flavor and bright green color of broccoli grown in cooler months.
When choosing broccoli, look for firm stalks
and firm, tightly bunched heads. Tiny yellow buds on the head signal
that broccoli is over the hill. Also, hold a bunch up to your nose and
breathe deeply. If it has an odor, leave it behind. For more
beta-carotene, choose broccoli with darker tops and a purplish hue.
Don't worry about the purple tinge which will turn to green when the
vegetable is cooked. Beta-carotene, which the body converts to the
antioxidant vitamin A, has been linked to lower rates of heart attack
and lower rates of cataracts and certain cancers.
To remove dirt from a head of broccoli, just
soak it upside down in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes. When
storing, cut a slice off the bottom of the stalk and put the head of
broccoli, stem end down, in a large glass of water. Cover the top
loosely with a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 1 week.