The cooler weather of fall promotes the best growth of the cabbage family crops like broccoli, Brussels sprounts, cabbage and cauliflower although they also are available in the spring and throughout the summer.
While all of these crops are nutritious and healthy vegetable choices, broccoli truly is a nutritional superstar with high amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C and dietary fiber plus cancer-fighting indole compounds.
About 200 acres of broccoli, mostly in small acreages, are grown across Pennsylvania. The harvest of fall broccoli is well underway and will continue until winter sets in.
Eating broccoli has been linked to decreases in cholesterol levels, blood pressure, peptic ulcers and various kinds of cancer as well as to increases in mental sharpness.
According to the Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition of the University of California at Berkeley, the indoles compounds found in broccoli seem to protect against cancers of the stomach and large intestine.
Broccoli also is high in fiber and antioxidants like vitamin C and carotenoids.
The Pennshylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program offers these tips when buying fresh broccoli:
- Choose tightly-packed heads.
- Stalks should be green with dark green or purplish-green, not yellow, buds.
- Refrigerate in an open
Antioxidants neutralize the action of free radicals - unstable oxygen molecules - which promote cancer. Broccoli also contains compounds that stimulate the release of anticancer enzymes.
Steaming, microwaving or quick cooking broccoli in small amounts of water minimizes nutrient loss when cooking broccoli and it is an excellent stir-fry ingredient.
Of course, broccoli also can be enjoyed raw with dip or in salads.
Dietary experts have long recommended including cabbage family vegetables like broccoli in the diet regularly, at least several times a week.
Under the dietary recommendations from the Department of Agriculture (www.choosemyplate.gov), broccoli is listed as one of the dark green vegetables.
The guidelines recommend that adult Americans should eat about 1.5 to 2 cups of dark green vegetables per week.
The following recipes from the 2013 Pennsylvania Vegetable Recipe Contest are tasty ways to include broccoli in your menus.
Broccoli in a basket
4 slices bacon
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup sour cream
2 small green garden onions
sea salt and pepper
1 bunch fresh broccoli, rinsed and dried on paper towel
1 pound pizza dough, freshly made or purchased
Cook the bacon until crisp. May be done in microwave for approximately 4 minutes. Let drain on paper towel and break into small pieces.
Pizza dough bread machine method
3/4 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Place ingredients in bread machine in order listed, and process on dough cycle.
Grease one 14-inch pizza pan.
With hands, gently stretch and press dough to fit evenly into pan.
Pinch dough around the edge to form a small rim. Cut into 8 triangles.
In a large bowl, combine the cheddar, sour cream, green onions, salt and pepper. Fold in broccoli and bacon.
Divide the broccoli mixture among the triangles, Starting at the wide end, roll the dough around the filling, making a basket effect.
Some filling may stick out. Transfer baskets to parchment paper covered baking sheet.
Brush the dough with olive oil and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, in a pre-heated 400-degree oven.
The baskets may be prepared and refrigerated unbaked for up to 1 day.
- Submitted by Mary Ellen Miller, Orwigsburg.
1 head of broccoli, cleaned and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 bell pepper, cleaned and chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
8 slices bacon, fried crisp and diced
Mix the above salad ingredients together in a large bowl.
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon pepper
Mix well and pour over salad ingredients.
- Submitted by MaryAnn Deeble, Tamaqua.
Stir fried broccoli
2 pounds broccoli
6 cups water
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Cut broccoli florets and stems into bite-size pieces. Bring water to a boil in a pot and add broccoli.
Cook broccoli 4 minutes or until crisp-tender and then drain.
Combine broth with the next 6 ingredients (broth through sesame oil) and stir with a whisk. Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and saute 15 seconds.
Add broth mixture and bring to a boil.
Cook 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly. Add broccoli and cook 30 seconds, tossing to coat. Enjoy!
- Submitted by Kathy Pasewark, Mechanicsburg.