Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tiny Tips: Broccoli Stalks


For the Christmas dinner we hosted for family, we finally gave in and bought a few vegetables at the grocery store. By and large, we had been subsisting on vegetables from our own garden that we either canned, froze or left to overwinter in the beds. But something fresh and green, other than our own leeks, seemed reasonable for Christmas dinner. So I bought a large head of organic broccoli.

Broccoli was one of our favorite vegetables before we began growing Tuscan kale. We haven't missed it at all since this kale became a staple of our diet. But undeniably, broccoli has its virtues too. One thing that few people realize about broccoli is that the stalk is also edible, or at least the core of the stalk is. The tough green skin covering the stalk will cause gas, but it's easy enough to peel.

Broccoli stalk is less flavorful than the florets, and its nutritional profile is slightly different, being notably higher in calcium and Vitamin C, but lower in other key nutrients. It has a nice, slightly watery crunch that's good in a stir-fry. I think it resembles a water chestnut more than anything else. It can be added in with the florets in pretty much any recipe that calls for them. I've also seen the stalk cut into neat batons and pickled. If pickled, the stalk will provide a healthy dose of fiber, but not much in the way of nutrition. In any case, broccoli stalk should be considered edible and not wasted. You should be able to get at least one extra serving of vegetable by including the stalk.


You can peel the stalk using a vegetable peeler. But I find it faster to pare it with a chef's knife. After removing the florets, trim the bottom and stand the stalk upright on your cutting board. Beginning in the middle of the stalk, cut downwards to remove the skin, cutting in just deeply enough to remove the outer and inner layers of peel. When the lower half is completely peeled, turn it upside down and peel the top half in the same way. The edible center will taper significantly at the end where the florets formed.


I'm particularly fond of broccoli stalk in a traditional Italian dish from the region of Puglia. Orecchiette con broccoletti is a dish of "little ears" pasta dressed with a garlicky olive oil-based sauce, and anchovies, hot pepper flakes, and broccoli rabe. It works fine with regular broccoli too, and I've prepared it several times for people who claim not to like anchovies. No one has ever complained. When cut up into small pieces, the stalk complements the dish nicely, falling into the bowl-shaped pasta pieces. And it fits in perfectly with the Italian abhorrence of waste in the kitchen.

But this time I used the broccoli stalk in a simple dish of stir-fried rice.


Broccoli leaves are highly edible and absolutely delicious when small (under 6" long). I once frequented a farmer's market where one vendor sold the baby broccoli leaves as cooking greens. They were highly addictive.

Do not save broccoli stalk or any other member of the cabbage family for use in making stock. The sulferous cabbage family becomes notoriously fartacious when cooked too long. Most other vegetable trimmings and peelings are good for making stock. Compost any non-edible parts of broccoli and its relatives.

More tiny tips: More Sunlight in Your Garden, Parboil Your Pasta, Repurpose Your Credit Card, Make the Most of Old Man Winter, Scallions

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

fartacious :) love the word

Danielle said...

I love, love, love kale. I'm a total convert!

On another note, we've found that swiss chard and bok choi stems make excellent replacements for celery, and I find them far more versatile and easy to grow. Your broccoli stems made me think of that.

el said...

Fartacious! Oh, it is far too early in the morning to be laughing this hard (only 1/2 way through my cuppa).

Matchstick thin they make a great salad too.

linda said...

I love broccoli stalks more than broccoli actually. I simply peel it and eat it raw as I cook or I add it to the dish I am making but usually the kids get to most of it first. One way to get them to eat their broccoli!

Slice of life said...

I add it to soups, tastes lovely

April said...

I shred up broccoli stalks (except for the outer part) and make a kind of coleslaw with apples and turkey bacon. Very yummy--they even sell bags of shredded stems for this, but it's so much cheaper to just shred it up yourself.

Jessica said...

I'm 2 years late here, but a dear friend taught me to marinate raw broccoli stalks in rice vinegar and a touch of sesame oil, salt and pepper. It's delicious.

Kate said...

Jessica, welcome and thanks for the suggestion! What you describe sounds very much like what I once had as a freebie amuse-bouche in a Chinese restaurant. It was memorably good.

Anonymous said...

Great info, thanks!

MKinSoCal said...

My wife likes to pulverize broccoli stalks, carrots and other vegetables and add them as thickener to sauces and stews, such as spaghetti. It seems to work very well and the flavor is hardly noticeable. It is also a sneaky way to slip in some vegetable content to people who are reluctant to eat vegetables.

Anonymous said...

Steamed broccolli, mushrooms, red onion, yellow onion and broccolli stalks are my daily meal around 0200 and is treated as lunch and dinner. A little olive oil and soy sauce are the frosting on my dish. After equals a short smile meditation thanking all the organs in my body for working so hard everyday for me to my inner peace and happiness. :) a humble Taoist...

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying some shredded extra thin with carrots under butter sautéed chicken breast, topped with sour cream and horse radish. Top with cracked pepper and sea salt. Try it. : )