When cooking broccoli, often the focus is on the broccoli florets rather than the stem. However, did you know that the broccoli stem contains just as much if not more vitamins and minerals than the florets? However, you may have found that the stems tend to cook unevenly, being soggy near the florets but still raw lower down. If so you may be wondering how the stems can be cooked in an appealing way. Luckily, the broccoli spear may be the answer to your prayers.
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What Is A Spear Of Broccoli?
Put simply, broccoli spears are pieces of broccoli that have been sliced lengthwise in a manner that makes it resemble a spear.
These result in broccoli pieces that are longer and thinner than average and will include both the head and stalk of the broccoli. Also known as the broccoli florets and broccoli stems respectively.
Often these will then be steamed or boiled to retain their nutrition contents and remain somewhat sturdy instead of mushy.
Why Do We Make Broccoli Spears?
Broccoli spears are made to retain the nutrients from the vegetable when preparing a meal with broccoli. This is because broccoli stems, like broccoli florets, are rich in vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to one’s health. In fact, in a lot of cases, the stem contains a higher vitamin and mineral content than the head of the broccoli.
In addition to the nutritional benefits, using broccoli spears instead of whole broccoli can improve the quality of the final dish. This is because broccoli spears will cook at a roughly consistent rate throughout. When cooked intact, however, broccoli can end up being mushy towards the top and undercooked at the bottom. Additionally, many people find that they actually like the taste of broccoli spears more than they do florets.
The broccoli spears being intact also means that there will be less overall food waste. This is because most of the broccoli will be used with the only part removed being the ends of the stem.
Broccoli spears will also be much simpler to wash since you aren’t having to ensure water gets into the crevice of the florets. Instead, they can be laid down flat and rinsed which will wash the stems and crown well. The benefit of this of course is that it makes meal preparation easier and faster.
You can present and cook broccoli in various ways. However, spears are a unique and exciting sounding way of doing so. This can make them ideal for serving at a fancy dinner party or if simply trying to spice up your typical family meals.
How do you cut broccoli into spears?
Now you know why someone would make broccoli spears, it’s time to actually begin prepping them. They are prepared raw rather than after cooking as doing so allows you to cook them in a wider variety of ways. Additionally, when cooked as spears, they will have a more even texture throughout.
Like with any vegetable, the first step is to thoroughly wash your broccoli. Then on your chopping block look ends to see if any are gnarled and woody. If so, remove roughly the bottom inch of the broccoli plant.
Once you’re satisfied with the texture of your broccoli, it is time to start making your spears. To begin with, take a sharp knife and cut your broccoli lengthwise down the crown and stem.
Following this, put half to the side for the moment and lay the other one flat side down. Then repeat the process of slicing from the crown and down the stem to create your spears. Then repeat the process with the other half of the broccoli.
Whilst doing this strive to make the spears as even as possible. Inevitably, there will be some difference in the crowns but the stems sound roughly the same thickness. Doing so will both improve the presentation and help the broccoli spear cook more evenly.
Naturally, the stem may get wider towards the middle. If it is particularly thick you may want to cut the spear in half or even into thirds. Either way, ensure that the spears are as close to even in size as possible.
How to Cook Broccoli Spears
Many people will cook broccoli florets by either boiling or steaming them. Either way can work just as well for broccoli spears. However, because these will be thinner, they won’t take nearly as much time to cook.
Boiling Broccoli Spears
When boiling broccoli spears, bring the water to a low boil and drop in your spears and place a lid on top. To check if your broccoli spears are ready, simply take one and gently stab the thickest part of the stem with a fork. When ready to eat, the stem should be pierced easily, however, if stiff more time is needed.
Steaming Broccoli Spears
Similarly to boiling broccoli, bring a pot of water to a low boil. However, this time, put a steaming pan over the top and pour the spears in there.
This process will take slightly longer than boiling on average so if intending to steam, then plan to do so ahead of time. Whilst it takes longer, steaming is often seen as being more beneficial since less of the nutrients will be lost than would be from boiling.
To check your broccoli spears are ready, simply follow the advice you would for checking boiled ones. However, when steaming it is important to ensure that there is always water in the bottom pan as it may evaporate.
Benefits of Broccoli
As mentioned above, broccoli is incredibly rich in nutrients. As such it is widely eaten either cooked as a side of a larger meal like a steak or raw in a salad. In fact, broccoli is recommended for vegans and vegetarians to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need. Additionally, broccoli has been shown to have beneficial effects for eye health, lowering cholesterol levels and preventing cancer.
Nutritional Content of Broccoli
Broccoli is very low in both fat and calories, containing almost no fat and roughly thirty calories per cup. In fact, raw broccoli contains approximately ninety percent water, seven percent carbohydrates and three percent protein.
The carbs in broccoli mainly consist of fibre and sugars with the digestible carbohydrates being three and a half grams per cup. Of which roughly two and a third of which is fibre. This means that a single cup of broccoli contains roughly five to ten percent of your recommended intake of fibre.
Protein makes up roughly thirty percent of broccoli’s dry weight. However, since broccoli is made up of roughly ninety percent water, this means that the protein count is roughly three grams per cup. Despite this though, broccoli is still higher in protein than most vegetables.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Broccoli is rich in the following vitamin and minerals, all of which are beneficial for your body’s health:
- Vitamin C: An antioxidant important for immune function and skin health.
- Iron: This essential mineral transports minerals in red blood cells along with many other important bodily functions.
- Potassium: A mineral beneficial for controlling blood pressure and preventing heart disease.
- Vitamin K1: a vitamin that promotes blood clotting and bone growth.
- Folate: helps normal cell function and tissue growth. In particular, this is important for pregnant women.
- Manganese: helps the body with a variety of processes such as forming bones and connective tissue.
However, it also contains many of the vital nutrients needed, however in smaller amounts.
Broccoli spears are a unique way of cooking broccoli in order to incorporate both the crown and stem. Doing so allows you to get the nutritional benefits of both the stem and the crown along with reducing food waste. If that’s not enough though the unique presentation and posh sounding name makes it an excellent accompaniment to a meal at a dinner party.