It surprises the heck out of me whenever my son Jake says this. Unlike most toddlers, his first experience with broccoli was a good one. We were in a Chinese restaurant and a platter of fresh, bright green stir-fried broccoli was placed before him. Before I realized it, he’d grabbed a piece of broccoli off the plate and stuffed it in his mouth. Then another, and another. That’s all he would eat that meal, he loved it so much! He asked to eat these “trees” for days afterward.
Broccoli gets a bad rap. Many people have traumatic childhood memories of soggy, bitter gray stalks sitting on their plates, being forced to swallow them before getting dessert. Broccoli is often overcooked, perhaps to soften the stalks, but the texture quickly becomes mushy. It may also develop an off-putting smell. On the plus side, broccoli belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables (including cauliflower, collard greens, cabbage, Chinese broccoli and bok choy) that are rich in powerful cancer-fighting phytonutrients as well as vitamins A and C, folic acid, and fiber.
For the best broccoli experience:
Choose fresh broccoli that is firm and dark green or blue/purple (versus bendable and light green or yellow).
Wash the broccoli thoroughly under cool running water, especially the florets, which may contain debris.
Trim off the leaves and tough woody parts of the stalk. Cut the florets into smaller sections and the stalk into thin slices.
Avoid overcooking, which can leach out the nutrients and produce a strong unappealing odor and color change.
Try this quick-cooking recipe:
Easy Stir-Fried Broccoli
Clean and chop up two large stalks of broccoli as described above. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in pan or wok until very hot. Lower to medium-high heat and add broccoli; stir-fry for 1 minute, moving broccoli around to coat with oil and heat each piece. Add 1/2 cup water or broth and allow to steam uncovered another 4-5 minutes while stirring continuously. Season with salt and garlic powder to taste. (If you prefer fresh garlic, dice 2 cloves of garlic and add to oil before adding broccoli.)