People usually love broccoli or can’t stand it. But, its healthy benefits should earn it a regular position on your dinner plate and a growing space in your home garden.
Broccoli may be eaten raw in salads or cooked as a side dish or casserole ingredient. The best way to cook broccoli is to steam it so the powerhouse of nutrients, especially the Vitamin C, is not lost. This “tree” looking vegetable is a cousin to cauliflower and cabbage. Scientifically speaking, it is of the Italica Cultivar group of Brassicaceae family.
Growing Broccoli in the Home Garden
Broccoli is a cool season vegetable with typically two growing periods – spring and fall. When the head is clipped, side heads will appear in clusters on the stalks. Cruiser is a common garden variety, but there are newer hybrid varieties that are more heat tolerant such as the Green Comet and the Green Goliath. Broccoli takes 55-60 days to mature depending on the variety planted.
You can transplant the young plants into your garden in early spring, or in late summer for a fall crop. A good rule of thumb is to count back 10 days prior to the first typical fall frost in your area and transplant the young plants then. If you wish to plant the seeds, plant them in early spring in moist soil about ¼ to ½ inch deep and 18 inches apart. You may need to thin them as the growing season develops. Adding a nitrate fertilizer midway through the growing season will yield a healthier, deeper green plant.
Broccoli is packed with nutrients our bodies need every day:
- omega-3 fatty acids
- vitamin A, B complex, C and E
- Minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, chromium, potassium, manganese
- Chemical enzymes such as glucoraphanin, diindolylmethane and zeaxanthin
In 2000, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study concerning which foods may be the best in colon cancer prevention. Broccoli came out in the lead. The same year, scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston publish results of a study that linked broccoli and spinach to cataract growth prevention. In 1999, the American Medical Association came out with an article that claimed broccoli may be beneficial in the prevention of strokes.
In 1994, at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, food chemist Dr. Paul Talalay discovered that the isothiocyanates chemicals in broccoli can be cancer fighting enzymes. He tested rats by introducing a carcinogen known to cause breast cancer in human beings. The rats that had consumed broccoli for several days prior had a 50% less occurrence of cancer rate.
A serving of broccoli has more Vitamin C than an orange and the same amount of calcium as is in an 8 ounce glass of milk. One broccoli spear has three times the fiber of a slice of whole wheat bread plus it is loaded with Vitamin A. Broccoli contains chromium which helps to regulate insulin levels in our blood and it also is a good source for iron which keeps our red blood cells strong and plentiful.
The high levels of folic acid and Vitamin C make broccoli a great detoxifier, and the fiber makes it a colon and intestinal health food. The magnesium in it helps to calm the acid pumps in our stomachs. The calcium is excellent for bone density and teeth, while the presence of Vitamins E and A is good for healthy, glowing skin. It has even been used to fight sunburn by applying it directly to the skin!
Health Cautions and Concerns of Broccoli
Because of its high fiber content, broccoli can give people who are not used to eating raw or fibrous vegetables and fruits some intestinal discomfort. But this is part of the detoxification process.
People with blood disorders should check with their physicians about the risks and benefits of regularly eating broccoli.
Something better than full sized broccoli?
Studies show that broccoli sprouts have even higher amounts of the compounds that make full grown broccoli so healthy — up to 20 times! Broccoli has also been shown to have more benefits as a plant or sprout than in the form of a supplement.
Want to learn more about the health benefits of broccoli?
See these helpful resources:
Broccoli Beats Most Other Veggies in Health Benefits from CNN Health
Tips on Growing Broccoli from University of Illinois Extension
Breast cancer stem cells versus broccoli, from Nutrition Facts.