Although broccolini is sometimes called “baby broccoli”, it’s not an immature version of regular broccoli, but rather a cross between broccoli and gai-lan, or Chinese broccoli. Kid-friendly broccolini is sweeter than broccoli and the stems are fun to eat. It grows in slender, delicate stalks, each topped by a small floret, rather than large heads with thick stalks like traditional broccoli. It is also known as aspiration, Bimi, broccoletti, broccolette and Tender Stem.
Nutritionally-speaking, broccolini and broccoli are comparable; both are excellent sources of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as good sources of folate, manganese, iron, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, and fiber. Both broccoli and broccolini also contain magnesium, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin and vitamin E.
As members of the family of cruciferous vegetables, broccoli and broccolini contain many phytonutrients which have significant anti-cancer properties, such as sulphoranes, indoles, and isothiocyanates. Glucosinolate phytonutrients, found in a special combination in broccoli and broccolini, support the body’s detoxification process, including elimination of unwanted contaminants. Broccoli and baby broccoli are also rich in the flavonoid kaempferol, which has strong anti-inflammatory properties, which lessens the impact of allergy-related substances on our bodies. Broccoli and broccolini are nutritionally powerful foods due to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification properties, and they also contribute toward cancer prevention, digestive and cardiovascular support, skin and eye health, and vitamin D support (due to an unusually strong combination of both vitamin A and vitamin K). Unfortunately, few people eat broccoli on a daily basis. We spend lots of money on supplements, but don’t take advantage of this inexpensive, nutrient-dense vegetable. A 1/2 cup serving of broccoli or broccolini per day (only 22 calories) or a 2-cup serving twice a week is enough to provide these vital benefits.
Broccolini is a very versatile vegetable and can be used in any situation in which you might use conventional broccoli. When cooking broccolini, less is more. Since the plant is perfectly edible uncooked, it only requires a very minimal cooking time (about 3 minutes steamed or boiled). Make sure to shock broccolini in ice water just after cooking to prevent further cooking and seal in its intense green color. Add to sautés, stir-frys, and roasted vegetable dishes (at the very end to prevent loss of flavor and nutrients). In addition, broccolini tastes delicious grilled–just brush it with olive oil and sprinkle with lemon juice and salt.
Steaming broccoli and broccolini may provide cholesterol-lowering benefits. Their fiber-related components bind more readily with bile acids in the digestive tract when they’ve been steamed. This may make it easier for bile acids to be excreted and may result in lower blood cholesterol levels.
Broccoli is available at most grocery stores and is even sold at Costco in a 2 lb organic bag called Broccolette by Earthbound Farm.
Take October’s (2011) healthy challenge and eat lots of broccolini!