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Foodstuff: Broccoli Stems

Broccoli Stems 1

I have noticed that many people who go to the bother of using fresh rather than frozen broccoli only use the florets and then throw the rest of the stem away. This is a bit of a shame really as this part of the plant is not only quite versatile, it is also tender and delicious as well. Indeed, I think I would have to say that I actually prefer it to the florets… 

Broccoli Stems 2

Broccoli stems have quite a thick skin on them, which is probably why most people have concluded that they are best discarded. However, the skin can easily be removed with a vegetable peeler leaving a heart that is quite succulent and tasty. Even raw, slices of the stem have a lovely crisp texture a bit like a radish, and the taste has nice sweet notes like freshly picked snow-peas.

Broccoli Stems 3

I always think the upper stem (where it begins to form ‘branches’) is really pretty in cross section and thin slices of it look terrific in a simple stir-fry. The rest of the stem can either be sliced lengthwise into sticks, or else cut into rounds or oblique ovals.

Broccoli Stems 4

I find that blanching slices briefly in salted water makes the green stand out very nicely against the lighter core. This is a good step if you plan to freeze the pieces for later, and it also has the added advantage of reducing the final cooking time. Thin slices, for example, need only be sautéed for a few seconds to be at their best.

Broccoli Stems 5

I most commonly use the stems in stir-fries, but they are great in soups and salads as well. Indeed, you can basically use them anywhere you might use, say, celery, or bamboo shoot, for example. Above, I have braised carrot and broccoli with butter and a little chicken stock to make a nice accompaniment to a pork roast.

Anyway, the versatility allows lots of scope for inventive cooks so, please, give the stems a chance…


16 Comments Post a comment
  1. My younger son is with you — he prefers the stems (though he’s three, so “prefer” is a diplomatic way of putting it); luckily, his brother likes the tops!

    April 8, 2014
  2. cmgifford #

    This was such a welcomed entry to my reading today, for I have quietly, even secretly, utilized these in my cooking. I found that after preparing the florets for dishes, I was left with so much of the cruciferae on my cutting board that I could not bear to waste, I would play, cutting the bases into cross-sections just like you describe. They always fascinated me– the funny abstract shapes, reminiscent of planed pieces of burlwood from the Big Sur coastline in California.
    As you mentioned, it is so easy to take your paring knife and strip away the woodiness of the surface layers to get to the heart. Unlike you, I never blanched intending to put in the freezer, but would secretly eat them on the spot, sometimes dipping into mayo, sometimes not, while waiting for the rest of the meal to simmer or roast..

    April 8, 2014
    • ohsohappy #

      Oh my goodness! I was trying to think of what the stem slices look like. Your description is absolutely perfect! Burl wood, indeed! 😊

      April 8, 2014
      • cmgifford #

        lol! ❤

        April 9, 2014
  3. The stems are lovely! I peel them and eat them raw while preparing dinner…or if a lucky rabbit is around, I may share the stems with him. He prefers the stems over the florets. Smart rabbit….

    April 8, 2014
  4. I pickle the stems! Slice, toss them in a jar and cover with vinegar, some pickling salt, and some crushed red pepper. Allow them to sit overnight and then enjoy. 🙂

    April 8, 2014
    • That sounds good …. brine pickling might be nice too. I never thought of pickling them at all.

      April 8, 2014
    • cmgifford #

      That does sound crunchy, delectable. Right now, I am lacto-bacilli-ing my asparagus; it is as good as any sweet pickle! 🙂

      April 9, 2014
  5. Laurel #

    I have also pureed the stems and used them as a thickener in cream of broccoli soup

    April 8, 2014
    • That’s an interesting idea!

      April 8, 2014
      • Laurel #

        I have a few friends that are gluten intolerant so I tried the pureed stems and it worked out pretty good. Bonus was it added more yummy broccoli flavour

        April 9, 2014
  6. A number of people I know, my mother included, would eat the broccoli stem but not the florets, found out it is a texture thing.

    April 8, 2014
    • cmgifford #

      Ms. Chang,

      You are beautiful! I respect you more than you might know… my best friend, Yuan Yuan Ling, said this to me, “Under Mao, we would wlecome any change.” But, in our humbleness, and understanding nothing except his repression and government, we utilized all that we had left.” ❤

      April 9, 2014
  7. I’m torn! I’m thrilled to learn that the stem is not only edible, but really tasty. However, to learn of how wasteful I’ve been, and for years, makes me cringe! Thanks for a valuable piece of information.

    April 11, 2014

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