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
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.