Broccoli (Calabrese)

Broccoli (Calabrese)

Broccoli or calabrese is a relatively modern vegetable and is one of the most popular. It is quick and easy to prepare with little or no waste and similarly easy to cook. It is attractive, whether served raw or cooked, and you can buy it in the quantity you require, unlike cauliflower or cabbage.

History : Before calabrese came into the shops, people bought and ate purple sprouting broccoli. This is basically an "untidy" version of calabrese, with long shoots and clusters of flowerheads at the end - the broccoli we know today has neat tidy heads. The stalks of purple sprouting broccoli have a faint asparagus flavor. The Romans cooked purple sprouting broccoli in wine or served it with sauces and it is still a popular vegetable today in Italy, cooked in the oven with anchovies and onions or served with pasta in a garlic and tomato sauce.

Varieties : Calabrese Broccoli - This is the vegetable we today commonly call broccoli, with large beautiful, blue-green heads on succulent stalks. it is named after the Italia province of Calabria where this variety was first developed.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli - The original variety that has long thin stalks with small flowerheads that are normally purple but can be white or green. Heads, stalks and tender leaves are all edible. The purple heads turn green when cooked but the others keep their color. Purple sprouting broccoli is more seasonal than the easily available calabrese; it is usually available from late winter onwards.

Buying and Storing : If possible, buy loose broccoli rather than the pre-wrapped bundles, because it is easier to check that it is fresh and also because wrapped vegetables tend to deteriorate more quickly. Purple sprouting broccoli can also be sold loose or pre-packed. Check that the stalk, flowerhead and leaves all look fresh and that the flowerlets are tightly closed and bright green. Neither type will keep for long.

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