Are You Eating the Best Part of Broccoli?

published Jun 11, 2015
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(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

Broccoli has been sitting in the shadows of cauliflower for a while now. I’ve watched it happen, slowly, as cauliflower and its wonder recipes receive all the attention. Good ol’ green broccoli — the poster-child for all wonder-veggies — is full of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and protein. Let’s not cast it away as the dark meat of the brassica family; it’s one we should consider eating on a regular basis.

And even more importantly, let’s take full advantage of every last part of the broccoli — that’s right, every part. That means, eat your stems! You paid for them (and they are the best part).

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

Tip: Depending on how you cut the stems, they can cook a few minutes faster than the florets.

How to Prep Broccoli Stems

Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the thick stem away from the head of florets. Cut about a 1/2 inch from the dried base of the stem. Smooth out the stem with a paring knife, trimming any side shoots and leaves. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the fibrous outer layer of the stem. Cut across the stem to produce rounds. Angle your knife on a diagonal to produce oblong slices. (You can cut the oblong slices into matchsticks or sticks, if you wish.)

Alternatively, place the stem upright on a cut end. Make 4 vertical cuts along the sides of the broccoli — squaring off the stem’s rounded sides. Place the stem against the board along one of its cut sides, and cut through it to produce rectangular slabs. Stack a couple slabs at a time and cut across them to produce matchsticks or sticks. You can cut through them further to produce dice.

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

7 Ways to Cook with Broccoli Stems (and Rekindle Your Love of Broccoli)

  1. Add broccoli stems to any any roasted, steamed, sautéed, or stir-fried broccoli floret recipe. For roasting and steaming, remember, they can take slightly less time to cook.
  2. Add broccoli stems to a breakfast strata. Eggs + milk + onion + spinach + broccoli stems and florets + cheese + day-old bread (cubed). Bake until the eggs are set.
  3. Add the stems to a broccoli stir-fry and serve with rice.
  4. Shred the stems on a box grater or with the shredding attachment on a food processor. Add shredded stems to homemade veggie burgers, or combine them with shredded potato (or any other vegetable), along with an egg and a little flour; pan-fry the batter to make savory vegetable fritters.
  5. Cut stems into matchsticks and roll them into a fresh spring roll or homemade veggie sushi.
  6. Blanch broccoli stems just briefly so they remain crisp, and serve them on a raw vegetable platter (even better than biting into an almost raw floret).
  7. Make a broccoli stem tartine. Cut the stems thinly and roast or steam them until they are just tender. Spread butter and Dijon or a grainy mustard over a lightly toasted piece of pain au levain or some type of good, crusty bread. Spread out the broccoli stems so they overlap slightly. Top with shredded cheddar or Gruyere cheese and place under the broiler until the cheese lightly browns and is bubbling.
(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)