Broccoli, California Grown

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California produces 90% of U.S. Broccoli, Arizona is 2nd. 15-20% of broccoli is exported to Canada, Japan and Taiwan. U.S. ranks 3rd in world for broccoli under China #1, and India #2.

Broccoli is California's 13th out of 20 top commodity - crop in value.

California remained the No. 1 state in cash farm receipts in 2010, with $37.5 billion in revenue. The state accounted for 16 percent of national receipts for crops, and 7 percent of the U.S. revenue for livestock and livestock products.

Though broccoli gets a bad rap (it smells like something unmentionable when you cook it,) dollar for dollar it packs more food value than lettuce. It has even been shown in studies to help prevent certain types of cancers.

California is the nation's top broccoli grower and Monterey County grows the most of any county. Consumption has been down recently, and broccoli growers say this year's crops are less profitable. We produce over 90% of broccoli in the U.S. and ship around 15-20% to countries such as Canada. The top grower of broccoli in the world is China. There is no broccoli festival in California these days, though you'll find many fruit & vegetable festivals celebrating artichokes, garlic, oranges, mandarins, wine, grapes, lemons, avocados and even potatoes celebrated. What gives? It's time to bring back the broccoli!

Greenfield, California was once known as the Broccoli Capital of the World, though they discontinued their Broccoli Festival and the road sign on I-101 faded away several years ago.

California's agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities. The state produces nearly half of U.S.-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables. Across the nation, U.S. consumers regularly purchase several crops produced solely in California.

California is home to some of the most productive counties in the nation. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture's ranking of market value of agricultural products sold, nine of the nation's top 10 producing counties are in California. The sales of these nine counties accounted for 6.6 percent of the nation's total sales value.

The late winter and early spring farmers markets are prime time for broccoli. California is the leading broccoli grower in the and Monterey County is the leading producer of broccoli in California, with 40% of the crop. The Central Coast of California also has the longest growing season for broccoli — it's available almost year round. Broccoli doesn't like it when it gets too hot, which is why our cool coastal climate is perfect for growing it.

In cold weather, broccoli tastes great right. Cool weather concentrates sugars in broccoli the same as it does for artichokes and Brussels sprouts (another Brassica), and also yields more tender stalks. The color also seems to be a deeper green, which appeals to me. Cold weather brings out the best in broccoli.

The broccoli at the farmers market now is tender and sweet enough to be enjoyed raw, chopped finely and made into a salad with things like diced carrot and cucumber, which is something I don't usually care for during warmer months. Use only the florets for this, and save the stalks to peel to use other ways. Broccoli stalks are good raw or steamed and served with bon-bon sauce (which goes well in a lunch box for kids or adults). Or, make a great soup with the stalks. The stalks also shred well for a different kind of slaw, as well. Look for broccoli at Bar-D, Globe Produce, Pinnacle, and Swanton Berry Farm, among others.

Broccoli is delicious roasted or sautéed until it caramelizes. If sautéing, cut the broccoli into very small bits so it cooks evenly without burning and overcooking and getting mushy. If I am being lazy, I will cook broccoli in a large amount of liberally salted water just until it brightens up, then drain it and dress it with good oil or a sauce. You can also blanch it early in the day and dunk it into ice water to stop it cooking, then serve it cold later.

Do not overcook broccoli. It destroys nutrients and releases the stink" that Brassicas feature, a result of chemicals breaking down, releasing sulfur compounds that give off the reek. The more you cook the broccoli, the stronger the smell gets, so cook quickly.

Storage

To store broccoli, keep it in a loose plastic bag that is left a little open in the coldest part of the refrigerator. The same holds for broccolini. Use broccoli within 3 days of purchase for optimum flavor, whereas broccolini will keep for over a week without appreciable degradation.

How to Select

When choosing broccoli and broccolini, look for deep, vibrant green coloring without any yellowing. The vegetable can be pliant, but should never be limp. Some broccoli will have a purple or almost bluish cast to the florets. This indicates more vitamin C and beta-carotene. Also, use your nose -- if the broccoli has a strong cooked cabbage smell, it is too old. It turns out, if broccoli is stored too long, the sugars convert to lignan, which is a fiber that no amount of cooking will soften, and this smell in raw broccoli is a good indicator.

Broccoli grows in these counties -- Monterey, Santa Barbara, Imperial,
San Luis Obispo, Fresno

Fresh market production increased for celery, cucumbers,
Romaine lettuce, spring onions, chili peppers, pumpkins, fresh
tomatoes, watermelon and asparagus. Fresh vegetable crops
with decreased production included artichokes, snap beans,
cabbage, cantaloupes, carrots, sweet corn, garlic, honeydew,
head and leaf lettuce, summer storage and non storage onions,
bell peppers, spinach, squash, broccoli and cauliflower.

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