Look below to find more info about broccoli including: health benefits, general cooking tips and some of the best Food Bank recipes that include fresh broccoli.

Broccoli may not seem like a fall vegetable, with its bright green florets that look like little trees, but in Southwestern Pennsylvania, we actually get two seasons worth of broccoli— one in the spring and one in the fall. Broccoli thrives on mild, sunny days and cool, crisp evenings. Just the weather we have been having lately in the Pittsburgh region.

Broccoli is part of the family of vegetables known as brassicas. Broccoli’s closest relatives include cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale. The name ‘broccoli’ actually comes from the Italian word for cabbage sprout. This family of vegetables is among the most nutrient-packed veggies on the planet.

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Health Benefits

  • One cup of broccoli contains 135% of your daily Vitamin C needs. Chicken soup may be a comforting cure-all during cold and flu season, but vitamin-packed broccoli may be the best medicine to ward off a case of the sniffles.
  • The fibrous stem of the broccoli stalk, not to mention the green buds of the flowering head, are an excellent source of fiber; fiber that helps to slow digestion, making you feel fuller longer.

Storage

  • Store broccoli in a loosely closed plastic bag in the vegetable drawer in your refrigerator. Broccoli will last longer in a higher humidity environment and the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator provides the moisture that is perfect for storing fresh broccoli.
  • Chopping vegetables far in advance may save some preparation time when you are cooking dinner, but cutting vegetables too far in advance can cause fresh produce to lose nutrients more quickly. Store bunches of broccoli whole and prepare just before cooking to minimize nutrient loss during storage.

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Don’t toss the stalks! Although broccoli stalks have a tough exterior, the center of the stalk is crisp and juicy. Peel stalks with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Chop into disks and use both the stalks and the florets in your favorite stir fry. Check out the recipe for the Food Bank’s Best Ever Home Fries (below) and try adding broccoli (stems and all) to a family favorite recipe like macaroni and cheese. Or slice into sticks for a unique addition to the standard snack of carrot and celery sticks.  

 

BEST EVER HOME FRIES

Ingredients

  • 2-3 potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, cut small
  • 2-3 carrots, shredded
  • Garlic to taste, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped into tiny pieces
  • 3 Tbl canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a hot skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add potatoes in a single layer in the pan. Sprinkle with a small pinch of salt and black pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes before stirring. Potatoes should be whistling.
  3. Cook 10 more minutes, stirring twice.
  4. Push potatoes to the outside of the pan. Add onions with a small pinch of salt. Cook 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. When onion is soft and turning brown at the edges, stir in with the potatoes. Add carrots, garlic and broccoli to the center of the pan with the rest of the salt.
  6. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring about once a minute. When the broccoli has softened and turned a bright green color, the home fries are done.

For easy-to-follow instructions with step-by-step pictures, find the recipe card here: https://www.pittsburghfoodbank.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Home-Fries-Tip-Card-Format.pdf

 

COOKING TIPS

Broccoli is the most flavorful (and delicious) and also the most nutritious when it is cooked until it is bright green and tender. Use your eyes as a guide and don’t over-cook. Broccoli is perfectly cooked when it is vibrantly green and still has a slightly crisp and crunchy texture.

stir-fry-veggies

Steamed Broccoli on the Stove Top

For this recipe you will need a steamer basket that fits in the pot that you will use for cooking.  Fill a pot with a few inches of water and insert a steamer basket over the top of the pot. Bring water to a simmer over medium-high heat. When the water is simmering, place the broccoli stems and florets in the steamer basket and cover. Allow the broccoli to steam for 4 to 5 minutes.

Steamed Broccoli in the Microwave

Place broccoli stems and florets in a microwave-safe dish and cover with loosely with plastic wrap, a damp paper towel, or a microwave-safe lid. When cooking non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, add 1 Tablespoon of water to the bottom of the microwave-safe dish to help the steam-cooking process. Microwave for 4 to 5 minutes on HIGH, for every 1-2 cups of broccoli.

Roasted Broccoli

Chop broccoli into “like-size” pieces and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Roast broccoli at 375˚F for 12-18 minutes (the smaller the broccoli is chopped, the shorter the cooking time). Check out this easy recipe for roasting all of your favorite green veggies:

https://www.pittsburghfoodbank.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Roasted-Green-Veg.pdf

Sauté or Stir Fry

Broccoli is a great addition to healthy stir fried or sautéed vegetable dishes. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat and allow the pan to get hot. When the pan is hot, add 2 Tablespoons of cooking oil. Add chopped broccoli and your other favorite vegetables to the pan. Keep the vegetables moving, so that they don’t burn— that’s why it’s called “stir” frying. When the vegetables start to caramelize and turn a toasty brown, add your stir fry sauce or season and serve. Check out this qucik recipe for a healthy stir-fry, just add broccoli and your other favorite veggies:

https://www.pittsburghfoodbank.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Stir-fry-Vegetables-Recipe-Card-NEW_Letter-Sized.pdf

Eat it Raw!

Raw broccoli makes for a great alternative to the average cabbage coleslaw. Finely chop florets and stems and toss with your favorite vinaigrette (i.e. Oil + Vinegar + Seasoning) or go for a classic combination of chopped broccoli, raisins, and slivered almonds with a standard creamy, slaw dressing.

 

Produce to People

Find fresh produce year-round at Produce to People! Produce to People is Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s large-scale produce distribution program. Every month, there are 17 different Produce to People distributions across Southwestern Pennsylvania serving 8,000 to 10,000 households. Every household leaves with 30-50 pounds of fresh produce. Keep an eye out for broccoli and other brassicas (particularly cabbage and winter greens) at Produce to People distributions across Southwestern Pennsylvania. For more information about Produce to People and to find out if there is a distribution near your neighborhood, visit:

https://www.pittsburghfoodbank.org/producetopeople/