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Part of the cabbage family, broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, and is also related to kale and cauliflower. Native to Italy, it was discovered by the ancient Romans in the 6th century BC. Best known for its green crowns, English bred purple broccoli is actually more tender, and doesn’t get as soggy when cooked, and adds a colorful touch to any recipe. Thomas Jefferson imported broccoli seeds from Italy for his garden at Monticello in 1767, although broccoli didn’t really become popular in the US until Italian immigrants brought it over in the 1920s.
Broccoli makes a perfect side dish and can be sauteed, steamed, roasted or even fried, and blends well with chicken, seafood,other vegetables and cheese in stir-fry, casseroles, soups, pasta and even pizzas, or mixed raw into salads or as an appetizer with dip. Both the stalks and florets are edible, but the leaves are bitter and usually thrown away or composted.
Broccoli is so rich in vitamins it is nicknamed the “Crown Jewel of Nutrition”, as it contain vitamins A, B-9, C, K, fiber, protein, potassium, phosphorus and selenium. This healthy vegetable is also packed with powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories which help lower cholesterol, balance blood sugar, strengthen the immune system, increase eye health, prevent cancer, break down kidney stones, and helps maintain health bones, teeth and skin.
Broccoli can be grown either in the Spring or the Fall. In southern regions, your best time is in the Fall, since broccoli seeds love cooler weather.
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