New Greens for the Table –Broccoli Leaves
After harvesting the heads, the plant is usually left to rot in the field, what a waste! Did you know that 70% of the plant is made up by it’s leaves? They are nutritious and have an earthy and mild flavour and can be steamed and sautéed as a substitute for other greens. The young leaves can be eaten raw in a salad.
- Broccoli contains beta-carotene and vitamin C which are important antioxidants that have been linked to a reduced risk of numerous conditions, including cataracts, heart disease and several cancers.
- Broccoli is also an important calcium source for those who don’t consume dairy products. Calcium not only builds strong bones, it has also been shown to play a role in the control of high blood pressure, and it may work to prevent colon cancer.
- Broccoli is a rich source of fibre. Being half soluble and half insoluble fibre, it helps meet your needs for both types.
- Since broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable it contains two important phytochemicals – indoles and isothiocyanates – that increase the activity of a group of enzymes in our bodies that squelch cancer-causing agents
- The vegetable and its leaves are high in sulforaphane, which is active in fighting against cancer.
- Sulforaphane helps to prevent fat building up in the liver, which is associated with liver cancer.
- Small quantities of the compound have also been found to enhance the effect of drug treatments.
- Health benefits are greatest if the vegetable is lightly cooked.
- When broccoli and tomatoes are eaten together they are found to enhance each other’s cancer fighting properties
Broccoli has been grown in Italy since the 6th century. Broccoli is a plant native to the Mediterranean. It was engineered from cabbage by the ancient Etruscans who were considered to be horticultural geniuses. When first introduced in England, broccoli was referred to as “Italian asparagus”. Although commercial cultivation dates back to the 1500s, broccoli didn’t become a popular food in North America until the early 1920s. It was introduced to Britain by a Flemish sculptor, Peter Scheemakers, who sculpted the Shakespeare memorial in Westminster Abbey. The name comes from the Italian plural of broccolo, which means ‘the flowering crest of a cabbage’. Since then broccoli – as well as it’s relative cauliflower – has undergone many changes. It is now available in purple and orange as well as the natural green.
Broccoli is a cool-weather crop that does poorly in hot summer weather. Broccoli grows best when exposed to an average daily temperature between 18 and 23 °C. When the cluster of flowers, also referred to as a “head” of broccoli, appear in the center of the plant, the cluster is green. Garden pruners or shears are used to cut the head about 2cm from the tip. Broccoli should be harvested before the flowers on the head bloom bright yellow.
While the heading broccoli variety performs poorly in hot weather, mainly due to insect infestation, the sprouting variety is more resistant, though attention must be paid to sucking insects (such as aphids), caterpillars and whiteflies. Spraying of bacillus thuringiensis can control caterpillar attacks, while a citronella vase may ward off whiteflies.
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) a common soil bacterium so called because it was first isolated in the Thuringia region of Germany and widely used in organic farming practices. Bt produces a protein that paralyzes the larvae of some harmful insects, including the cotton bollworm and the Asian and European corn borers, all of which are common plant pests whose infestations produce devastating effects on important crops.