So, you don’t like broccoli? How about giving broccolini a try. This vegetable looks alot like broccoli but is sweeter, more tender and milder in flavor. Rather than one large head, there are many smaller florets on a long stem. You eat both the florets and the stems. Broccolini is a hybrid of traditiional broccoli and Chinese kale. This new vegetable variety was developed by a Japanese seed company and introduced into the market in 1998. Those folks got it right. Broccolini has the same nutrient-rich value as broccoli but is much easier on the palate. I purchased several small seedlings via mail order catalog from the Burpee Seed Co. this fall and just harvested my broccolini shoots. I simply cooked them in olive oil and garlic. The dish is delicious.
Here’s my very small garden harvest of broccolini. Oops, one of the plants “bolted” during a hot weather spell this winter and flowered before I could havest the plant. Luckly, you can eat these broccolini flowers in salads.
As a clarification, “broccolini” is a trade-marked name. In supermarkets (and the Burpee Seed catalog) you will find other names used for this hybrid broccoli such as “sprouting broccoli” and asparation, Aspabroc, broccolette, broccoletti, Italian sprouting broccoli and sweet baby broccoli. Bimi, broccolini, and Tenderstem are trade names for this hybrid vegetable.
Burpee Seed Catalog
Over the years, I’ve purchased many types of seeds from the Burpee Seed Catalog company, but never any actual plants. When my local plant nursery was out of broccoli seeds this fall, I turned to the venerable Burpee Seed Catalog. I couldn’t find broccoli seeds, but much to my surprise, I discovered that you can purchase seedlings. I mused that this might be an interesting experiment; and so I purchased six Montebello Hybrid Sprouting Broccoli plants and six Butter Stem Hybrid Sprouting Broccoli seedings. Several weeks later, the plants arrived in little peat moss cups in a plastic container. All were in great shape!
Here are my broccolini plants ready for harvest. I think there is some method to get these plants to branch out into multiple stems — I’ll try that next year. I covered these plants with a sheet during our hard winter freezes. The ones which stayed under the sheet survived the freezes but the two which blew out from under the sheet didn’t make it.
I decided to try a very simple recipe since this was my first attempt at cooking broccolini. My recipe uses only four ingredients — broccolini, olive oil, garlic, salt and optional lemon juice.
To prepare the dish, heat olive oil over medium (not hot) heat in a heavy skillet. Place broccolini stems and heads (florets) in a single layer with the heads pressed against the skillet. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until just beginning to char. Turn over, add the sliced garlic, a sprinkle of salt and cook on the other side for one minute. Then a add a little water, partially cover and steam the broccolini for about 5 minutes longer until tender. Transfer to serving plate. If desired, squeeze fresh lemon juice over the broccolini. (We actually prefered the dish without the lemon.)
This mildly flavored broccoli hybrid was tender and delicious. Even the stalk! My husband and I both liked all the garlic along with the broccolini. Charring the vegetable (rather than boiling it) imparted a very nice flavor.
My garden experiment was a success — at least I had a harvest! I have left the plants growing in my garden in hopes that additional shoots will form for a second crop. The net cost benefit of purchasing the small seedlings from a plant nursery or catalog vs purchasing the broccolini ready-to-cook from a grocery store is questionable; but it is the joy of gardening that makes it worth it. And I discovered a new, very healthy and tasty vegetable along the way! Enjoy!
Charred Broccolini with Garlic
- 4 – 8 oz fresh broccolini
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup water
- juice from one lemon, optional
Method and Steps:
- Rinse broccolini and drain.Remove excess leaves and trim several inches off bottom of the broccolini stems.Split any large stems lengthwise up the stalk.
- Heat olive oil in heavy skillet, such as cast iron skillet, over medium heat until olive oil shimmers but does not smoke. Add broccolini in a single layer with heads (florets) pressed against bottom of skillet. Sauté until some of the stems and floret tips are lightly charred, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Turn broccolini over. Add garlic and salt. Sauté an additional minute.
- Very carefully add water (oil can splatter). Partially cover and cook and additional 5 minutes until the broccolini is tender crisp.
- Transfer broccolini and garlic to serving plate. If desired, squeeze fresh lemon over broccolini.