EAT PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI
After a fairly sparse couple of months on the leafy veg front, the start of the purple sprouting broccoli season marks a welcome addition to the winter vegetable palate. Simply steamed or boiled, it partners almost any fish or meat dish, and it also takes centre stage in excellent dishes such as Broccoli with Anchovy.
Purple sprouting broccoli was initially cultivated by the Romans. Broccoli has been grown in the UK since the early 18th century, although the purple sprouting variety has only risen to prominence in the last 30 years.
Broccoli is a cruciferous plant, in the same family as the cabbage, and is closely related to the cauliflower.
Purple sprouting broccoli is especially good when young and tender. Look for darkly coloured specimens with crisp stalks, no bigger than 1cm in diameter, which snap cleanly when broken. Reject bendy broccoli.
In the fridge for up to a week.
Split thicker stalks about halfway up so that they cook at the same time as the heads. Steam, stir-fry or boil in a small amount of water. The tasty leaves are edible and so do not need to be removed.
Broccoli comes from the Italian word brocco meaning branch or arm. Roman epicure Marcus Gavius Apicius, creator of one of the earliest known recipe books, describes preparing broccoli "with a mixture of cumin and coriander seeds, chopped onion plus a few drops of oil and sun-made wine."