There are many parts in a bunch of broccoli. Broccoli fans may know all their broccoli terminology but for the average cook or gardener, there may be some confusion. Broccoli plants consist of many parts and they each have their own term and definition. Some are more often eaten than others. Some are more nutritious than other parts of the broccoli.
To better understand everything about broccoli, this article will cover the main parts that are common. This will be the most useful information to help you decide what you may be growing, buying, cutting, cooking, and eating when it comes to all things broccoli. This is all very useful information, especially when following a recipe or ordering off a menu.
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Each section will cover a different part of the broccoli. I have broken it down so you know what each one is called, what it looks like, and how it is commonly used. This includes cooking ideas and delicious recipes.
Broccoli pieces can be used interchangeably in some recipes. But for the most part, it is important to use a floret when it is called for and not try and replace it with the stalk. That would be a big broccoli bumble. Here are the most important parts of a broccoli plant.
Broccoli is actually a flower. When you have a crown of broccoli you actually have a lot of tiny flower buds that have not bloomed or opened up yet. Each of those tiny green parts of the crown is a bud. Broccoli is harvested before it blooms so the tiny buds can be enjoyed. The small green flower buds have a slight purple hue to the ends of them.
When broccoli is not harvested and continues to grow, the buds will go from blooms to seeds. The sweet little buds will become tiny yellow flowers. These broccoli flowers are edible. So if you have a bunch of broccoli with a few buds that have become flowers, it is safe to eat. It is actually quite pretty and I find it common especially on broccoli or broccoli rabe.
When broccoli grows it does so on a thick medium-height stalk. When harvested from gardens or fields, it is cut at the base of the stalk. What is left is considered the crown or head of broccoli. Broccoli crowns are the tops (heads) of the stalk that consist of the florets, steams, and other parts. It is basically everything except the stalk itself.
Crowns of broccoli when fully grown are typically between 4-8" in diameter. A medium-sized broccoli crown typically is about ½ pound. It will make about 3 cups of broccoli once cut into florets. One crown of broccoli will feed 2 people as a simple side dish. If it is added to a salad, stir fry, or pasta, it will be enough broccoli for 4 servings.
Once you cut up the head or crown of broccoli, what you are left with are broccoli florets. It is a small section of broccoli buds separated from the crown. This is the most flavor part according to many people. It is probably why it is the most consumed part of the broccoli plant. Florets are the most common part or term used in everyday cooking and recipes.
It is also the most common part of the broccoli used in restaurants and what you are likely to be served in a restaurant unless it states something else. These small bunches of buds are compact and great for holding onto sauces, spices, & toppings. This is probably why the florets are the most loved part of the broccoli.
I will be honest, my favorite part of the broccoli are the leaves. When you buy a bunch of broccoli, there may be a few leaves on it. I always try and make sure I do not throw them out and add them to any recipe.
On broccolini or broccoli rabe, there tend to be more leaves than on a traditional head of broccoli. A leaf of broccoli is the most fragile and tender part of the plant.
Ever wonder why we call it a stalk of broccoli? A stalk is the stem of a plant. And on the broccoli plant, the stem is referred to as the stalk. The stalk is the section between the stem and the florets full of broccoli buds.
The stalk of a broccoli plant is also the most edible part, besides the florets. It may be a bit tough and stringy at times but shaving the outer layer off exposes the tender inside. Broccoli stalks are best cooked al dente with a little bit of crispness left in the center. That along with the outer part of the stalk and the florets cooked until soft is a good combination.
The stem of the broccoli plant is the part that comes from the ground. It is thick and eventually spreads out into separate stalks that grow up from the base of the stem. The stem is tough and most people cut it off and do not eat it.
The stem of broccoli is totally edible. The very end can be trimmed off and the rest is delicious and nutritious. If you find it tough, once shaved with a vegetable peeler and cooked properly it is quite enjoyable. Thin-shaved broccoli stems make lovely ribbons in a salad or pasta dish for example.
Broccoli Spear vs Stalk
The most confusing thing between the different parts of broccoli involves the spear and the stalk. Do many people wonder what is the difference between the spear and the stalk of broccoli? One actually contains part of the other, they are not entirely two separate things.
As you read above a spear of broccoli is a cut section that includes both part of the stalk and the part of a floret from the crown of the head. Many try to use the term interchangeably but they are quite different. One spear of broccoli is a little bit of the stalk and the floret in one tasty combination.
Broccoli Sprouts vs Broccoli
A broccoli sprout is a young or immature broccoli plant. In comparison to mature or fully-grown broccoli, broccoli sprouts contain more glucoraphanin. This compound changes into sulforaphane once digested. Sulforaphane is great for combating inflammation and has many health benefits.
If you are wondering if broccoli sprouts are healthier than broccoli, you may want to know more. It may have 10-100x more health benefits in some areas. But it does have less vitamin A than mature broccoli. To learn more & weigh the benefits of each, check out an article from Livestrong.
Organic Broccoli is Best
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Most Nutritious Part of Broccoli
Here is a quick rundown of all the nutritious parts of broccoli. Here is a cheat sheet of the vitamins, nutrients, and benefits of broccoli. I find it best to eat as many parts as possible to get all the benefits that broccoli has to offer for a healthy diet. All parts of the broccoli can be eaten, cooked with, and are tasty. Whether fresh or frozen, it is always a good idea to get more broccoli in your diet.
- Floret - this part is highest in amino acids plus folate.
- Leaf - this part is high in calcium, antioxidants, vitamin E, & vitamin K.
- Stalk - this part contains the most fiber.
- Stem - contains fair amounts of fiber, folate, vitamin E, & vitamin K.
Broccoli has many benefits to a healthy lifestyle. It helps with inflammation, supports immunity, and promotes good eye health. Eating broccoli on a regular basis also helps improve blood sugar, and supports a healthy heart, and healthy skin. For more in-depth information all about broccoli check out Nutrition In Broccoli Cuts.
Serving Size: 1 cup (91 grams) of broccoli has the following nutrition facts & calories. 2 cups is a recommended serving size as a side dish.
- 30 calories
- 0 g total fat
- 6 g carbohydrate
- 2 g fiber
- 2.5 g protein
- 81 mg vitamin C (90% DV)
- 93 mcg vitamin K (78% DV)
- 567 IU vitamin A (64% DV)
- 57 mcg folate (14% DV)
- 288 mg potassium (6% DV)
- 19 mg magnesium (5% DV)
- 60 mg phosphorus (5% DV)
- 0.66 mg iron (4% DV)
- 43 mg calcium (3% DV)
- 0.37 mg zinc (3% DV)
The best way to eat broccoli to retain the most nutrients is either raw or slightly cooked. Steaming, roasting, air frying, or microwaving broccoli retains most of the health benefits of broccoli. Boiling is the least favorable way to cook broccoli as it cooks out some of the vitamins.
Here are some great recipes to enjoy broccoli as part of a healthy diet. There are a few cooked recipes in wonderful main dishes. For the best way to enjoy broccoli try the easy steamed recipe or the super flavorful raw broccoli salad.