Broccoli has a long history – the Romans absolutely loved it. In fact, the variety most commonly found in supermarkets today is Calabrese broccoli, so named after Calabria in Italy, a region where it’s been extensively cultivated. But there is so much more to this family of Brassica oleracea – purple broccoli being a great example.
A delicacy that’s every bit the equal of asparagus, purple broccoli is a heirloom variety that’s also known as Romanesco cauliflower, a cool weather vegetable that is usually harvested in late winter and the spring. The purple comes from anthocyanin, a harmless, water-soluble pigment that is exacerbated by sun exposure; it’s also characterised by its large, silvery-green leaves on stiff stems growing in whorls around a green central stalk.
Broccoli is something of a superfood, and it’s purple cousin is no different – in fact, purple broccoli has been found to contain even higher levels of antioxidants. Rich in vitamins C, K, and A, purple broccoli is also an excellent source of folates, B-complex vitamins, manganese and iron. Fibre too, one of the most valuable and versatile nutrients around. It helps to normalize bowel movements, lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar, maintain bowel health, and aid in achieving a healthy weight – purple broccoli helps you eat less while feeling fuller.
It’s also rich in phytochemical sulforaphane, a compound thought to help prevent cancer and provide resistance against heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. It also increases enzymes in your liver and has antimicrobial properties – not for nothing is it known as one of the most powerful anti carcinogens found in food.
Purple broccoli offers a nutty, peppery flavor added to the sweetness and bitterness that are common to all Brassica vegetables. It’s as delicious as it is gorgeous, naturally tender, and benefits from a light touch while cooking – it can even be eaten raw. It doesn’t need much trimming, with the florets, leaves and stem all edible; simply pick off any discoloured leaves and trim the bottoms of the stalks.
You can boil, steam, stir-fry, roast or griddle to intensify its taste; if eating raw, simply dress with a little sea salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. It goes well in pastas and risottos, and marries perfectly with tomatoes, chiles, cured meats such as pancetta and prosciutto, flaky white fish, hard cheeses like parmesan, and fresh cheeses like chevre and feta.
At Buffalo Market, we’re always on the lookout for great organic produce and heirloom varieties, and our organic purple broccoli is a great addition. Stick some in your cart today, and add some colour and variety to your meals.