Monday, July 21, 2008

Broccoli Bouquet

Broccoli in "Bloom"

My broccoli plants have been giving me beautiful plump green leaves all season, but only recently has it formed some flower heads for me to harvest. The unopened immature flower buds are the broccoli we see in the grocery stores. My homegrown broccoli produces many small flower heads and when I cut them off with my paring knife to harvest them, it encourages the plant to grow more side shoots with additional small flower heads on them. I sometimes wait too long to harvest the heads and then the little yellow broccoli flowers begin to open and attract the bees. It's still quite edible and tasty when this happens, but as in most flower stalks, the stems then become more fibrous and less tender.

I've only harvested 1/2 lb of broccoli heads so far, but more are forming out there. I try to allow the heads to grow as large as possible while still making sure they remain unopened, before I grab them for my dinner.

While I do enjoy eating the broccoli flower heads, I really get jazzed about growing my own broccoli in my garden. I consider it another one of the "2 for 1" vegetables that give me two crops for the effort of only growing one. You see, I also harvest and eat the beautiful deep green broccoli leaves! They are delicious in many dishes. Of course I use them as I would any DGLV (dark green leafy vegetable) such as chard, spinach, beet greens, collards etc, but they excel in other uses as well. My favorite thing to do with the broccoli leaves is to stuff them with meat and rice using my Mom's stuffed cabbage rolls recipe. They come out so tasty and tender, and I know they are very nutritious. I read in an organic gardening magazine many years ago that not only were the broccoli leaves edible, but also that they had more nutrients than the flower heads do. I was already growing them in my garden, so I ran outside right then and picked a few leaves, brought them into my kitchen and cooked them up. I was very pleased with their taste and performance and have been eating them ever since. It's a pity that you never see broccoli leaves for sale in the grocery stores. They are versatile and can be used in place of cabbage or even grape leaves. The smaller leaves are good raw in salads or slaws.

Grow your own broccoli. Eat the flowers, stems and leaves. Have fun. It's delicious.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket


Hardware Bob said...

There's only one way to eat a broccoli head and that's with melted cheese generously slathered everywhere.

Yummy, just like Mom used to make.

Maybe I'll grow some next season. I already have my hands full.

CaliforniaGrammy said...

Gorgeous broccoli, one of my favorite vegetables. And I wonder why the leaves aren't harvested and sold in stores? It sounds scrumptious to use them like cabbage leaves to make little packages stuffed with meat and rice.

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Bob,
I've never really liked cheese or other sauces on my broccoli. I enjoy butter or good green olive oil and herbs to enhance rather than hide the fresh broccoli flavor. Of course, you must start with locally grown organic broccoli to get the best flavor ;)

Hi CA Grammy,
The leaves are very good, especially with meat and rice. I am not sure why they are not sold in the market.