Broccoli is one of those vegetables that you either love or you hate. If you are a fan, local broccoli is a great way to get more nutrients and flavor into your diet.
Eating Local Broccoli
If you don’t like broccoli, you aren’t alone. It turns out there is a variant of a receptor gene called TAS2R that makes you more sensitive to bitter flavors, and 25% of the population has this.
Since broccoli has a slight bitter flavor, you might not like it if you don’t like bitter. Yet you can cook your local broccoli properly to improve the flavor.
Or you can be like me and love broccoli since you were a kid. I must not have the sensitivity to bitter, because I’ve always liked broccoli.
Local broccoli may be bitter or more mild. Some think it has an earthy flavor, or even peppery. Broccoli is in the same family as cabbage, which is also peppery. I find some varieties of broccoli sweet.
Roasting your local broccoli may cut some of the bitter flavor.
Growing Local Broccoli
Broccoli is a cool season crop. It bolts (goes to seed) in hot weather, and prefers temperatures around 60F. You want to start broccoli seeds in late winter/early spring for a summer crop or in mid to late summer for a fall crop.
Broccoli is actually a flower stalk with tons of little unopened flower buds. When it gets hot and the flowers start to turn yellow the broccoli is past its prime.
In Maryland, you may find tiny green worms in your broccoli. Covering your broccoli with row cover fabric can stop insects from laying eggs and thus infesting your broccoli with those worms.
Its said that soaking broccoli in salty water will remove the worms if you have them.
Broccoli stalks and leaves are both edible, but are usually ignored in favor of the flower parts. Learning how to best use the stems and leaves means more vegetable for your money or gardening effort.
For Maryland, look towards heat tolerant varieties for your spring crop to avoid problems with summer heat. Some varieties will give you a broccoli head and then keep giving broccoli sprouts for a while.
Once broccoli bolts, the flavor and texture of your broccoli will change.
Local Broccoli Varieties
Broccoli was bred from wild cabbage thousands of years ago. Cabbage is a biennial, meaning it flowers the second year if you don’t cut and eat it. Broccoli flowers the first year, and we eat that.
There are a few interesting varieties you might find when looking for local broccoli varieties. There are many customary green headed broccolis, along with some that grow sprouts for a while.
There is a purple sprouting broccoli, which is purple and does not form a tight head. It is very cold hardy, so it may be a good option for growing through late fall and early winter.
Romanesco broccoli is a alien looking local broccoli that looks like fractals. It is bright green and spiky. Romanesco has a nutty, milder flavor that is closer to cauliflower than broccoli.
Chinese broccoli, or Gai Lan, is a type of broccoli grown for the leaves rather than flowers. Broccolini is a cross between gai lan and regular broccoli, and really is more like baby broccoli than raab is.
Storing Local Broccoli
Broccoli is best eaten fresh. It doesn’t keep long. To keep it three to five days in the fridge you can try wrapping it in a wet towel, or putting it in a jar with water like a bouquet in the fridge.
To keep local broccoli longer, freezing it is the best option. You can’t can it because the texture would become unbearably mushy in the pressure canner. There are no tested recipes for pickled broccoli either.
To freeze your local broccoli, chop the broccoli into smaller pieces and then blanch it. Chill the blanched broccoli and freeze it in a single layer on a tray before storing in a smaller container for later.
Frozen broccoli is best in cooked dishes. You can still roast it later but the texture won’t be as firm.
Local Broccoli Recipes
Local broccoli is great in soups, roasted, and steamed. I grew up with lemon juice and butter on my broccoli, and prefer it that way still.
Chinese Broccoli Stir Fry would also work with the leaves of regular broccoli.
Try making Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry with your local broccoli. It’s a great meal for leftovers as well.
Sunflower Broccoli Salad is a great way to use fresh local broccoli in a salad that features it.
Roasted broccoli is fabulous with some olive oil and salt. You can also grill broccoli for a similar dish.
Local Broccoli Trivia
President George Bush famously declared his hatred for broccoli in 1990.
President Barack Obama claimed broccoli to be his favorite food in 2013.
Perhaps President Bush had the genetic capability to taste more bitter flavors than President Obama has.