What is Broccolini?
Broccolini, known in Europe as asparation and in the United States as baby broccoli, is a trademark of the Mann Produce Company, which developed the hybrid between broccoli and gai lan, also known as Chinese chard. The unique vegetable resembles broccoli or asparagus in physical appearance, with long stalks topped by delicate buds. Broccolini took off in gourmet cuisine in the 1990s and became widespread in supermarkets shortly thereafter.
In flavor, broccolini reminds many consumers of asparagus, being sweet and tender with a hint of broccoli-like bite. In fact, the plant is so delicate that it can be eaten raw or cooked very briefly. Many commercial broccoli cultivars are woody and lacking in flavor, because they have been developed for rapid growth and easy shipping. The more delicate broccolini has a much more robust flavor, and it is a welcome addition to the ever growing options in the produce aisle.
In addition to tasting superb, broccolini is rich in many vitamins and minerals. It carries high amounts of vitamin C, potassium, iron, fiber, and vitamin A. For parents trying to convince children to eat their vegetables, broccolini, like other “baby” vegetables, is a fun alternative that sometimes intrigues children enough to coax them into eating some. For vegans and vegetarians, broccolini and other leafy green vegetables should be eaten frequently.
Broccolini is a very versatile produce item and can be used in any situation in which cooks might use conventional broccoli. In addition, broccolini tastes delicious grilled with olive oil and salt and sprinkled in lemon, and it can be served whole on the plate as an interesting visual accompaniment to a meal. The whole plant is edible, and the stems are so tender that they do not require peeling.
When cooking broccolini, less is more. The plant is perfectly edible raw, and therefore needs a very minimal cooking time, with just enough heat to blanch the vegetable. When steaming broccolini, make sure to rinse it in cold water afterwards to prevent it from cooking any further. When adding to sautees and roasted vegetable dishes, toss it in at the very end to prevent loss of flavor, texture, and nutrients.
Broccolini grows in cool coastal climates and takes 60 to 90 days to harvest depending on the season. It can be grown year round in areas with mild temperatures, like broccoli, although it requires more personalized attention to encourage additional tender, sweet shoots to grow. It can be stored in the refrigerator for approximately one week.