Little Trees: Broccoli by any other name

by Kathleen Reale

Dairy Free Nut Free Fish Free Soy Free Gluten Free 

When I was little, my sister called broccoli “little trees”. Lining the florets up on her plate like a nutrient filled forest, she slowly popped each one in her mouth like a lumberjack on a mission to clear acres. 

Things were simple back then. Eating all the vegetables on your plate was the biggest obstacle of the day and the only other name for broccoli in my world was “little trees”. Nowadays though, things are different. More complicated. There are several other names that broccoli goes by: Rabe, Kai-lan, romanesca, broccoflower?

What gives?

Like hybrid plants and trees that are cloned, developed and morphed into new species, things are getting complicated in the world of broccoli.

Following is a demystification of these broccoli varieties, along with some pointers on preparing and serving broccoli to fit a gluten and allergen free lifestyle:

- Broccoli comes in numerous colors including dark green, white, chartreuse or purple… with the dark green being the most widely found and used. Broccoli is a vegetable that is high in calcium, iron and magnesium, and rich in vitamins A and C. Healthy, available year round and inexpensive, broccoli and all of it’s varieties, should be incorporated into the diets of those with food allergies and celiac disease.

- Although served primarily as a side dish, broccoli can also be added to casseroles, pasta dishes, omelets and tossed salads. Try broccoli steamed, stir-fryer, or even grilled by cutting stalks lengthwise in half and grilling over medium heat for 10 minutes each side.  

- Broccoli rabe or rape, are actually the flowering shoots of the turnip plant. It has small yellowish buds. Generally, broccoli rabe is not eaten raw.

- Kai-lan is another name for “Chinese broccoli”. It is of the same species of plant as kale and broccoli. Its flavor is similar to broccoli, but a bit sweeter and it has a distinct mustard-like taste. Try kai-lan with any type of dip for an extra zip! Although it looks more like kale, prepare it the same as traditional broccoli.  It also makes a tasty addition to any fresh salad.

- Broccoflower , a broccoli- cauliflower cross, is just that… a little of each. The lime-een head looks a lot like cauliflower, but tastes sweeter, like broccoli.

- Romanesca has a smaller, yellow or vibrant green compact head compared to traditional broccoli. This type of broccoli looks a lot like cauliflower.

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