We all know and recognise broccoli, but what about broccolini and broccoli rabe? Broccolini is a cross between broccoli and gaai laan, or Chinese broccoli. Instead of flower buds growing together and forming a cluster as they do with broccoli, the buds on broccolini form on a single long stem. Like with broccoli, the stem and leaves are edible.
I grow a plant sold as ‘tender-stemmed broccoli’ I purchase from my local plant nursery. I believe it to be broccolini but perhaps that name has a restrictive trademark and it has to be sold under another name in this country. Never mind – it tastes great!
It’s a tad confusing … but you can use broccoli in recipes calling for broccolini – in this recipe cut the slices into manageable pieces after cooking – or if you are in America, use broccoli rabe. Broccoli rabe is from a different plant family, and more mustardy and bitter-tasting than broccoli or broccolini, but still delicious served this way. Whichever one you use, you’ll be eating a whack of goodness.
Broccolini is not the tidiest looking plant to grow, but who cares about that when it starts producing endless stems of sweet-tasting broccoli.
More notes on broccoli & broccolini
Broccoli is an affordable and dependable green vegetable available year round.
Cook broccoli as soon after purchase as possible, either by lightly steaming it or cooking it quickly in gently boiling water. Once cooked, drain it and splash with a cup or two of cold water (this is called ‘refreshing’), to halt the cooking. This helps the broccoli keep a good green colour, but does cool it. That’s fine if you are using the broccoli in a salad, but if you want to serve it hot, return it to a dry pan with a knob of butter or a splash of extra virgin olive oil along with a good grind of pepper. Heat gently until hot, then turn it into a heated dish and serve immediately because it does not keep hot for very long. Avoid covering the dish or it will develop a nasty pong!
When buying broccoli, look for tightly packed evenly coloured heads. There should be no visible pinpricks of yellow, a sign of maturing broccoli, and the stalk should feel heavy for its size and firm, not bendy. If it smells like cabbage, it is past its best.
You probably already know the virtues of broccoli and that its cancer-curing properties are no longer just anecdotal: scientists have found that the phytochemicals broccoli contains can inhibit certain cancers. It is also valuable as a source of readily absorbed calcium. The leaves contain more beta-carotene than the florets, so include them in cooked dishes, too. But all this applies only when the broccoli is fresh. Broccolini has similar good news, but be choosy when you buy it – the stems should be taut and crisp.
And further reading on Link below (nutrition, selecting, storing, preparing, cooking).
Broccolini may not be the handsomest plant in your garden, but it goes on producing tender stems for many months. Harvest bu cutting above a leaf to ensure a new stem will form.