Those of us who grew up with broccoli-cheese casserole may not know it yet, but broccoli is more than just a pop of green in a sea of cream. Broccoli is amazing superfood. We’re learning more and more each day about the nutritional benefits of the broccoli plant. Unlike many popular superfoods like acai, cacao, green tea, and kefir, broccoli can be grown easily throughout North America.
This wonderful plant is so accessible that it’s been a traditional part many northern diets for centuries. It’s low in calories, high in fiber, and delicious cooked or raw. It’s also incredibly rich in easily absorbable nutrients, which helps to help balance any diet.
Considering all of this, have you noticed that we only eat a tiny portion of the whole plant? Broccoli florets are devoured on veggie trays or in creamy pasta dishes. In contrast, broccoli stems are usually discarded—tossed in compost heaps around the globe.
They don’t have to be. Stalks are as nourishing as florets, and they’re also just as tasty, with a refreshing texture and a welcoming crunch. They’re just not used as often as the florets because they take a bit more effort to process.
Learning to prepare broccoli stalks allows you to gain as much nutritional value from the plant as possible. Your health, and your grocery budget will thank you.
High in fiber, broccoli supports a healthy digestive system and keeps the colon running smoothly. It provides a natural, gentle fiber boost, which encourages elimination without forcing it. But broccoli’s high fiber content doesn’t just help with elimination.
This plant is a heart healer, and its fiber binds to cholesterol as well. Easily soluble, the fiber catches cholesterol in the bloodstream and carries it out. As such, broccoli can help pull cholesterol from the blood, out of the body, lowering rates overall.
Regular broccoli consumption also aids in detoxification. Adding broccoli to your diet can help your body detox from heavy metals, environmental toxins, and hormonal imbalances.
Along with general detoxification, broccoli is a cancer-fighting superstar! It’s rich in isothiocyanates, and many studies show that broccoli is able to directly attack cancer stem cells. A plate full of broccoli can be a great part of a cancer-preventative diet.
It’s also packed full of other benefits. From neutralizing free radicals to balancing the body’s pH, broccoli is a true superfood. Try to incorporate it—raw or cooked—in your diet regularly to maximize its health benefits.
Don’t waste one bite of this spectacular plant! Instead, learn to turn that knobby stem into a meal you’ll want to make often.
Broccoli stalks don’t tend to feature highly in recipe books. Everyone loves cooking with broccoli florets, while all too often the stalks are tossed in the compost bin or fed to the chickens.
Composting broccoli is definitely good for the soil, and your flock can benefit a lot from a few stalks, but you’ll be depriving yourself of n numerous nutritional benefits. Let’s learn to share the healing. Throw some stalks and leaves into the chicken coop, but fill your compost bin with egg shells and coffee grounds instead.
You don’t want to discard any nutrient-dense morsels, or miss out on the flavorful new takes on old recipes broccoli stalks can offer. The trick to finding ways to incorporate the stems is to consider them separately from florets.
Imagine the stalk is a vegetable all its own, with a crisp texture and a mild, fresh flavor. Now, give it a chance to shine.
Cooking with Broccoli Stalks:
How can we incorporate broccoli stalks and enjoy both their flavor, and their nutritional benefits?
Believe it or not, the stems are both tasty, and easy to cook. Some people prefer to peel off the outer skin before preparing the stalks, but it’s not essential. Younger broccoli stalks especially have very tender, flavorful stems—skin and all.
One of my favorite ways to prepare these stems is in hearty soups and stews. Broccoli stalks tend to hold up better in minestrone than the florets. Chop them into thick cubes and throw them into the soup along with your potatoes and onions to simmer.
Broccoli stalks can also make a great addition to a broccoli-cheese soup. Added along with the florets, the stems make this type of soup heartier and more sustaining than usual. They also add a bit of a soft crunch.
Throw some thinly sliced stems into your stir-fry instead of water chestnuts (or in addition to them) for an extra healthy addition to a vegetable-rich meal. Stir-fries are a great option for getting the maximum health benefits from cooked broccoli stalks. Quick, hight-heat cooking preserves many nutrients that might otherwise be cooked away. Add the green florets to your stir-fry a minute or so after the stems to cook everything perfectly.
Sear jullienned broccoli stalks in olive oil, sprinkle them with sea salt, and fold them into an omelette along with some sharp cheddar cheese and fresh chives for an indulgent Sunday brunch. Or, throw diced stems into a fritatta with smoked gouda and thickly sliced bacon to feed a crowd on Saturday morning.
Slicing broccoli stalks into long spears and roasting them is another amazing way to cook this neglected vegetable. Mingle the spears with squash, onions, tomatoes, and beets. Coat them with olive oil, and sprinkle thyme and sea salt on top before roasting.
4. In the Raw:
You certainly don’t have to cook broccoli stalks to enjoy their flavor or health benefits. Raw stems can be a delicious, fresh addition to any meal.
Imagine thinly sliced stalks brightening up the average veggie tray with a crisp, new flavor option. Or peeled, slim stalk circles for scooping up hummus like a crunchy little chip! There are so many ways to incorporate raw broccoli stems as a snack or meal.
5. Slaws and Salads:
Try grating fresh broccoli stalks into a slaw with slivered almonds, fresh carrots, and crumbled feta. The stalks with be a great addition to any slaw, however. Toss them together with cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, or potato salad for a pop of color and a burst of flavor.
6. Gluten-Free Cracker Alternatives:
Peeled, raw broccoli stems can be sliced thin and topped with goat cheese, dried cranberries, and crushed pistachios for a great, gluten-free crostini as well. Welcome your gluten-free guests with something new and exciting.
Broccoli stalks are a great base to build on when you start seeing them as nature’s own cracker. There is no limit to the toppings these little stalks can’t handle.
7. The New Pickle:
Sliced into broad strips and sprinkled with dill, salt, and vinegar, raw broccoli stalks are a tasty and novel re-invention of the conventional pickle. Serve a few beside (or inside) sandwiches!
You can even mince them and make relish. Combine broccoli stalk with red onions, dill, vinegar, and a mildly spicy pepper for a hot relish. Pile it on tuna salad for a whole new tuna melt.
Nourishing the Whole Family:
If you’re a pet owner, you know that your pet’s health is important. We care about our animal companions, and want them to be as healthy as possible. They’re a part of the family.
People aren’t the only ones who can benefit from broccoli’s nutrient density. Your pup would love a bit of broccoli. Broccoli is also one of the few vegetables that is healthy for dogs to consume consistently. If you feed your dogs a good diet of bones, meat, and vegetables, chances are you know all this. If you don’t, let me go over a few basics.
Dogs are not “pure” or obligate carnivores. Unlike cats, hawks, owls, mink, and other, exclusive carnivores, dogs need more than just meat. It’s healthy for a dog to have access to some veggies as well. Broccoli is a great, healthy addition to your dog’s diet. Try steaming some broccoli stalks and mixing them in with your pup’s meal. Or blend steamed broccoli into your home-made dog treats.
Like people, dogs benefit from the added vitamins and nutrients. If your dog is anything like mine, she’ll be sneaking raw broccoli stalks off the table in no time.
Cats are considered obligate carnivores, so adding broccoli stalks to their regular diet is discouraged. That said, broccoli is one of the few vegetables they can eat without harm. Therefore, an occasional broccoli treat might be fun for your kitty.
Just don’t ever give broccoli (or any other brassica) to pet rabbits, as it can cause life-threatening gas or intestinal blockage.
There are always hits and misses whenever we start exploring new foods, or new ways of cooking with old favorites. Broccoli stalks are no different. I’ve found I don’t like them steamed and blended into smoothies, but you might! Never be afraid to try something new.
Broccoli stalks are a forgiving food to work with. They’re simple, mild, crisp, and versatile. Best of all, your body will have a the benefits of a nutrient dense superfood. Be prepared to feel stronger and more energetic than ever when you invite more of this wonderful vegetable into your diet.