The name comes from the Italian word for 'cabbage sprout' and indeed broccoli is a relative of cabbage, Brussels sprout, and cauliflower.
One planting may produce for as long as three months in the late fall or winter because of production from axillary shoots that produce small heads after the main one is removed.
It is best not to plant brassica family crops (cole crops such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnips, collards, and mustard greens) in the same spot year after year. The diseases and insects may build up, so be sure to rotate the crops in your garden.
Plants grow well in any fertile, well drained soil with deep watering and 1-2 feedings before heads begin to form.
If the temperatures get too high, broccoli will bolt into premature flower stalks that will bloom and go to seed.
Harvesting from the Winter Garden
Harvest when the buds are about the size of a match head. Remove with a sharp knife; leave between 4" and 6" of stem. Eat as soon as possible because it will not keep for long. The broccoli should have tight, compact bud clusters that are deep green or green tinges with purple, and fresh looking leaves. Yellow buds are a sign of age.
For cooking, break into even size pieces, dividing the stem and floret lengthwise if they are thick. Cook in a little boiling water for 4 - 5 minutes until just tender and then drain. Do not over steam, as sometimes the broccoli can turn a grayish green.
Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin A and C, as well as riboflavin, calcium, and iron.
Recipe: Broccoli with Garlic, Crushed Chilies, and Pecorino
One head broccoli
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 to 1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes
1/2 cup pecorino cheese, grated
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp chicken broth
1 Tbsp olive oil
Remove the broccoli's florets. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer layers of the stalk. (I didn't peel off quite enough the first time I tried this and got fibers stuck in my teeth.) Cut the stalk into 1/2" pieces. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and cook the garlic briefly. Add 1 Tbsp chicken stock, pieces of stalk and the crushed chilis. Cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the broccoli is a bit tender. Add a little more stock if it evaporates. Add the florets and an additional 1 Tbsp of chicken stock. Cover and steam until the broccoli is tender. In a warmed serving dish, toss the broccoli gently with the pecorino cheese. I tried this with reggiano parmesan and it was also excellent. Add a little salt if needed.
This recipe is from the website of Kaiser Permanente: Food for Health, Recipes for Life.