My winter garden this year got some nasty visits from Mother Nature… back-to-back cold snaps. The first snap destroyed the butternut squash, which had several small squashes on the vines. The second snap destroyed the tomato plants. The fourth and fifth snap stunned three pepperbushes: serrano, poblano, and cayenne. The sixth cold snapped destroyed them.
However, majestic and radiant stood the broccoli plants!
Having never grown broccoli before, we were not confident when the seeds sprouted into thin, flimsy seedlings, almost the size of thread. We lost a few in the process. After a few more months of inside coaxing, thinning, and nurturing, the seedlings became stronger, sturdier, and healthy. We transplanted them into the garden and waited… before long they grew into very healthy plants. Being a member of the brassicaceae (cousin to kale, cabbage, collards, and cauliflower), broccoli loves cold snaps. The broad leaves reminded me of collards. They were so beautiful and deep green, I harvested some of the leaves and cooked them. It turns out, you can eat them…, but they are not very flavorful so mixing them with another sturdy winter green is required.
Eventually the actual broccoli crowns started to sprout… and sprout quickly they did! Within weeks, I had five big delicious crowns of broccoli that I could not wait to harvest. I also harvested one entire plant to cook the leaves (read paragraph above for outcome). The remaining plants I left in the garden to continue sprouting through the remaining winter.
Only one large central broccoli crown sprouted; but, over the course of the following weeks, many smaller side broccoli sprouts pushed forth from the remaining leaves. I harvested the sprouts weekly and threw them into mixed vegetable stir-fries; batches of roasted cauliflower; cheddar broccoli and bacon omelets; and one top of baked potatoes. A few small broccoli sprouts did not make into a dish. Instead, I washed and ate them raw. I have to say that just picked garden fresh broccoli taste incredibly sweet, even raw. Much sweeter than any broccoli that I have purchased from the market.
Our favorite preparation this winter was roasted Broccoli – tossed with olive oil and seasoned generously with sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper. Roasting vegetables is just so easy and fitting during this season because, more than likely, we are already roasting a chicken or beef/pork roast, and potatoes for dinner. The use of the baby broccoli sprouts was ethereal.
My Recipe: Garlicky Roasted Broccoli serves 4
2 heads broccoli, or 6 cups of baby broccoli sprouts
3 T olive oil
2 – 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, more if desired
1 lemon, zest only
¼ t crushed red pepper flakes, more if desired
kosher salt, to taste
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 425-degrees.
Cut broccoli florets and place in a big bowl; trim the stalks with a peeler, cut into big chunks and toss in bowl with florets
Season broccoli with 2 T the olive oil, red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper; spread on a shallow roasting pan in a single layer; roast in oven for 5 minutes
Remove pan from oven; add sliced garlic, lemon zest, remaining olive oil; toss well; continue roasting for about 2 more minutes until broccoli is browned on the edges and your house is fragrant with garlic and broccoli
always in good T.A.S.T.E – cause you gottatastethis!