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Oily Rag - Beautiful Broccoli

Oily Rag - Beautiful Broccoli

By Frank and Muriel Newman

The NZ Herald recently ran an article celebrating the health properties of broccoli. It’s fair to say that broccoli is a staple for the oily rag garden. It’s easy to grow, provides all year round, and it’s easy to use in the kitchen. On top of it all, it’s good for you!

The article reported on how researchers have found eating broccoli can help asthmatics to breathe easier. An Australian nutrition specialist has described broccoli as, “a superstar among green vegetables and an undisputed nutritional champion.”

Given it’s so good for you we would like to pass on some reader tips about growing it and using it in the kitchen.

In general broccoli should be planted in a warm, sheltered spot in the garden between November and May. As a winter vegetable it is harvested at a time when fresh vegetables may be scarce. About 10 plants sowed a few weeks apart are enough to provide a family with a continuous supply all year round, if the varieties are mixed.

It is a relative of the cauliflower, but the heads (the flower) are green - and unlike cauliflower, sprout new flowers when cut. These side shoots will emerge in greater numbers and within a few weeks a new crop will be ready for the eating. The heads should be harvested before the flowers open.

Cole from Auckland has a tip for managing your broccoli plants to get the most out of them. “Once you have cut the head off your broccoli plant instead of pulling out and starting again, leave it in the garden. Smaller heads grow out just above where the leaves join the stem. You can keep eating broccoli for months. I did this a few years ago and we ate broccoli at least 2 or 3 times a week for about 4 months off 8 broccoli plants.”

Lilley has a favourite recipe for using up those tough broccoli stems in a soup. “You will need: 1 onion (diced), 1 large broccoli stalk (diced), any left-over broccoli florets, 1 large potato, 1 vege stock cube dissolved in 2 cups water, 1 teaspoon butter, 1/4 cup milk or cream, 1/4 cup cheese (optional), and salt and pepper. Saute onion in butter till clear. Add broccoli and potato. Cover with vege stock and simmer for 30 minutes till very tender. Blend and season. Reheat with a little milk or cream. Sprinkle with cheese if you like.”

Another reader has a favourite lemon butter topping for broccoli. “Simply add 12 tablespoons of lemon juice to 115g of melted butter. Mix in a little salt and pepper to taste. Stir together and pour over cooked broccoli. Serve immediately.”

If broccoli is to be frozen, blanching in boiling water will retain maximum flavour and colour. This is what you do: bring water to the boil in a large saucepan. Place cut vegetables in wire basket and completely immerse in boiling water. Cover and leave for four minutes. When done, cool quickly under cold running water. Drain to remove excess water then place in airtight containers or plastic bags in the freezer - or free-flow freeze broccoli florets on trays separately and when frozen put into bags. Broccoli should keep in the freezer for 8 to 12 months. Do not refreeze once thawed.

Broccoli is an excellent vegetable for a patio garden. Use the sprouting variety so you can keep harvesting florets.

Broccoli likes rich soil filled with compost. Winter is a great time to start making your own compost, and a reader has sent us this simple method. “To make rich compost, place lawn clippings, weeds and other garden waste into a big black plastic bag (such as a big garbage bag). Seal the bag and leave. Turn it once a week and after three months you will have good garden compost.”

Don’t forget to send your money-saving tips to us to share with the oily rag community, by emailing us at or by writing to us at Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.


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