The Farm of Minnesota
Community Supported Agriculture

Broccoli




Excerpt from our Aug. 30th, 2010 Newsletter:

Broccoli is one of those “super” foods people are talking about today.  A researcher at John Hopkins University came out with a study that had a huge impact on cancer treatment. He discovered a compound found in broccoli that not only prevented the development of tumors by 60 percent, it also reduced the size of tumors that did develop by 75 percent.

Indeed, broccoli and its cruciferous sidekicks are among the most powerful weapons in our dietary arsenal against cancer. That alone would elevate it to the status of a SuperFood. But when you add in the fact that broccoli also boosts the immune system, lowers the incidence of cataracts, supports cardiovascular health, builds bones, and fights birth defects – you know that your have a SuperFood. Broccoli is one of the most nutrient-dense foods known; it offers an incredibly high level of nutrition for a very low caloric cost – only 30 calories per cup. Of the ten most common vegetables eaten in the United States, broccoli is a clear winner in terms of total polyphenol content. It has more polyphenols than all other popular choices, with only beets and red onions having more per serving. These polyphenols help boost certain enzymes that help to detoxify the body. Looking for a vitamin C fix? Make a beeline for the broccoli. Are your potassium stores low? Partner up with broccoli. Is fiber on your shopping list? Bring home the broccoli. Need an iron boost? Look no further than broccoli. Get the idea? Broccoli is a SuperFood.

Now for some specifics... Raw broccoli contains a high amount of fiber, so that a single cup appears to contain lower amounts of nutrients. Remember, a single cup on cooked broccoli equals approximately two cups of raw broccoli. Keep that in your mind when you look at these comparative numbers. Broccoli is high in vitamin A – one half-cup serving cooked provides 1083 IU and raw has 678 IU. That same half-cup also provides an abundant amount of Folic acid – cooked it has 39 mcg and raw 31.2 mcg.

A cup of broccoli also gives you 10% of your daily iron requirements. The vitamin C content helps your body absorb the iron. One cup of cooked broccoli has as much vitamin C as an orange and one third of a pound has more vitamin C than two and one-half pounds of oranges. A one-half cup serving of cooked broccoli offers 58.2 mg, while the raw offers 41 mg. A cup of broccoli actually fulfills your daily recommended vitamin C requirement.

Broccoli also offers 71.8 mg of calcium for a whole cup of cooked as much calcium as 4 oz. of milk. That same cup raw contains 42.2 mg. Though this exceptional vegetable is not a powerhouse of protein, it does contain 2 grams for one-half cup cooked, and 1 gram for the same quantity of raw. These same figures apply to fiber as well, with 2 grams for cooked and 1 gram for the raw broccoli. Across the nutrition scale, broccoli contains all the nutrients mentioned above as well as vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

Although fresh is always best, frozen broccoli is not a bad second. Frozen broccoli contains about 35% more beta carotene than the fresh because the frozen packages consist mainly of the florets. Most of the beta carotene is stored in the florets. But don't jump too quickly. There's plenty of nutrition in those stems, such as extra calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C. The darker colors of the florets, such as blue green, or purplish green contain more beta carotene and vitamin C than those with lighter greens.

I have been referring to “cooked” broccoli above. There are several cooking options available. Steaming and boiling are probably the most commonly known options. To avoid nutrient loses, steamed is our first choice. The main challenge of boiling is that many of the nutrients talked about above get left behind in the water. Although not all of the nutrients get “lost” in the water, you want to maintain as many as you can. That is why steaming is our first choice.
Storage tips:

Freshly harvested broccoli offer lots of nooks and crannies for small insects to hitch a ride in.  To solve that, submerge the broccoli into warm water with a little white vinegar added.  Any stowaways should jumps ship after a minute or two.  Never soak more than 15 minutes, and use warm water only, not hot or cold.

Broccoli will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, but the longer it is stored, the tougher the stems get and the more valuable nutrients it will lose.  If storing for longer, freezing best preserves broccoli's flavor, color and nutrients.  To freeze, cut the large heads into bite-sized chunks leaving a bit of stem, and cut any remaining lengths of stem into 1-inch chunks. We would recommend that you blanch the pieces in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes, plunging them immediately into icy water for three minutes to stop the cooking process. This will eliminate bacteria, and allow the broccoli to keep its firm texture and bright green color. Drain the pieces, then store in plastic freezer bags. Frozen broccoli retains its quality for up to six months.