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 kale. The unique vegetable resembles broccoli or asparagus in physical appearance, with long stalks topped by delicate buds. It 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. This, more delicate vegetable has a much more robust flavor, and it is a welcome addition to the ever growing options in the produce aisle.
In addition to a taste that many people enjoy, 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, this and other “baby” vegetables can be a fun alternative that sometimes intrigues children enough to coax them into eating some. Vegans and vegetarians should eat green vegetables frequently.
Broccolini® is a very versatile produce item and can be used in any situation in which cooks might use conventional broccoli. In addition, it can be 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 this vegetable, less is more. The plant is perfectly edible raw, and needs a very minimal cooking time, with just enough heat to blanch it. When steaming it, cooks should make sure to rinse it in cold water afterwards to prevent it from cooking any further. When adding to sautees and roasted vegetable dishes, it should be tossed 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, just 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.