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bunches of broccoli
Broccoli is a member of the cabbage
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With more health benefits per bite than any vegetable, broccoli takes the prize as the most nutritious vegetable around. Delicious raw or cooked, this vegetable boosts the flavor and nutrition of dozens of broccoli recipes. In this article, we'll talk about growing broccoli, selecting and serving broccoli, and the health benefits of broccoli.

About Broccoli

Broccoli is a member of the cabbage, or cole, family. It grows 11/2 to 21/2 feet tall and looks a bit like cauliflower. Broccoli will grow in most areas of the United States at one season or another, but it is not a suitable crop for very hot climates.

Common Name: Broccoli
Scientific Name: Brassica oleracea; Botrytis Group
Hardiness: Very Hardy (will survive first frost)

In the next section, we'll show you how to grow broccoli.

Want more information about broccoli
? Try:
  • Broccoli Recipes: Check out dozens of recipes featuring this tasty vegetable.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.


Growing Broccoli

For the best in nutrition, look no further than broccoli. This hardy, tasty vegetable contains more nutrients than any other vegetable. It's no wonder that home garderners make an effort to include broccoli in their vegetable gardens.

stalk of broccoli
Broccoli is a cold-season crop.

In the production of broccoli, the head formation stage of development is essential. Broccoli that's held in check by severe frost, lack of moisture, or too much heat will bolt (go directly to seed without forming a head). Broccoli is frost hardy and can tolerate low 20 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. It's a cool-season crop and does best with day temperatures less than 80 degrees Fahrenheit and night temperatures 20 degrees Fahrenheit lower. Broccoli likes fertile, well-drained soil with a pH within the 6.5 to 7.5 range. Broccoli is usually grown from transplants except where there's a long cool period, in which case you can sow seed directly in the garden in fall for winter harvest. Plant transplants that are four to six weeks old with four or five true leaves. If transplants are leggy with crooked stems, plant them deeply so they won't grow top-heavy. Plant the seedlings l8 to 24 inches apart.

Harvesting Broccoli

Time planting to harvest during cold weather. Transplants can be harvested in 40 to 80 days, depending on the variety. Harvesting can continue over a relatively long period. When it is well developed, cut off the central head with five to six inches of stem. Harvest before the head begins to loosen and separate. If small yellow flowers have started to show, it's past the good eating stage.

Types of Broccoli

There are several varieties of broccoli for home gardeners to choose from. These varieties include types that perform better in warmer climates.
  • Green Comet Hybrid, harvest at 55 days, is disease resistant and heat resistant and produces 7-inch heads.
  • Premium Crop, harvest at 58 days, is an All America Selection.
  • Coronado Crown, harvest at 59 days, performs well in hot climates.
Want more information about broccoli? Try:
  • Broccoli Recipes: Check out dozens of recipes featuring this tasty vegetable.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.


Selecting Broccoli

The nutritional power of broccoli makes it a must-have during your next trip to the market or plan for your vegetable garden. Color is key when choosing broccoli. The greener the broccoli is, the more beta-carotene -- an important antioxidant -- it has. Look for broccoli that's dark green or even purplish-green, but not yellow. Florets should be compact and of even color; leaves should not be wilted; and stalks should not be fat and woody.

Pot of steamed broccoli
Steaming preserves the nutrients in broccoli.

Keep broccoli cold. At room temperature, the sugar in broccoli is converted into a fiber called lignin, which is woody and fibrous. Store unwashed broccoli in your refrigerator's crisper drawer, in a plastic bag. Don't completely seal the bag, but make sure it is tight. Use within a few days.

Tips for
Preparing and Serving Broccoli

Wash broccoli just before using. Peel away the outer layer of the stems because these are woody. Use as much of the stems as you like; they contain fewer nutrients than the florets anyway. Steaming is the best way to cook broccoli because many nutrients are lost when it's boiled. Preventing broccoli's unpleasant odor is easy -- don't use an aluminum pan and don't overcook it. Steam only until crisp-tender, while stalks are still bright green; five minutes is plenty.

Try this trick: Make one or two cuts through the stems before cooking. This helps the stems cook as fast as the tops. Or dice and steam with the rest of the broccoli. Cool and toss into a salad to boost the fiber.

Broccoli florets can boost the nutrition, flavor, and color of any stir-fry dish. Raw broccoli tossed into salads boosts the nutrition of a midday meal. Served raw, broccoli is a great finger food. Children love it this way, perhaps because the flavor isn't as strong, or maybe just because it's fun.

However you serve broccoli, you'll be getting a boost of nutrition from this nutrient-packed vegetable. Keep reading to learn more about the great health benefits of broccoli.

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Health Benefits of Broccoli

For years, parents have been right: Eating your broccoli is a good idea. This hearty, tasty vegetable is rich in dozens of nutrients. In fact, it packs the most nutritional punch of any vegetable.

Health Benefits of Broccoli

Italian Broccoli with Tomatoes
Broccoli is the centerpiece of the
Italian Broccoli with Tomatoes recipe.

Broccoli's noteworthy nutrients include vitamin C, vitamin A (mostly as beta-carotene), folic acid, calcium, and fiber. While the calcium content of one serving doesn't equal that of a glass of milk, broccoli is an important calcium source for those who don't consume dairy products. Calcium does more than build strong bones. Research shows that this mineral may play a role in the control of high blood pressure, and it may work to prevent colon cancer.

Beta-carotene and vitamin C are important antioxidants that have been linked to a reduced risk of numerous conditions, including cataracts, heart disease, and several cancers.

Broccoli is a fiber find. Not only is it a rich source, but half of its fiber is insoluble and half is soluble, helping to meet your needs for both types of fiber. But the story doesn't end with broccoli's rich array of nutrients. Broccoli provides a health bonus in the form of protective substances that may shield you from disease. Botanically, broccoli belongs to the cabbage family, collectively known as cruciferous vegetables.

Health organizations have singled out cruciferous vegetables as must-have foods, recommending we eat them several times a week. Why? They are linked to lower rates of cancer. Like all cruciferous vegetables, broccoli naturally contains two important phytochemicals -- indoles and isothiocyanates. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore isolated from broccoli an isothiocyanate, called sulforaphane, that increases the activity of a group of enzymes in our bodies that squelch cancer-causing agents

Nutritional Values of Fresh and Cooked Broccoli
Serving Size: 1/2 cup chopped
Calories 27
Fat <1 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrate 6 g
Protein 2 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g
32 mg
Vitamin A 1207 IU
Vitamin C 49 mg
Riboflavin <1 mg
Vitamin B6 <1 mg
Folic Acid 84 micrograms
Calcium 31 mg
Iron 1 mg
16 mg
Manganese <1 mg
Carotenoids 1,567 micrograms

Want more information about broccoli? Try:
  • Broccoli Recipes: Check out dozens of recipes featuring this tasty vegetable.
  • Nutrition: Find out how broccoli fits in with your nutrition plans.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.