Food in Season: March
By WLR's Food Information Executive, Laurence Beeken
Purple Sprouting Broccoli
A member of the cabbage (Brassica) family, purple sprouting broccoli, like cauliflower, is the flowering part of the plant, and typically starts to emerge in late February when the rest of the vegetable garden is still dormant.
Purple sprouting broccoli was initially cultivated by the Romans and has been grown in the UK since the early 18th century, although has only really become popular in the last 30 years or so. The name Broccoli comes from the Italian word ‘brocco’ meaning branch or arm.
Plants of the brassica family have a number of accepted health benefits. Purple sprouting broccoli contains the phytochemical sulphoraphane (thought to help prevent cancer) and may provide resistance against heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. It is packed with vitamin C and is a good source of caretenoids, iron, folic acid, calcium, fibre and vitamin A.
Choose broccoli with dark green-purple leaves and florets. Discard any pieces which are bendy or which have yellow open florets or wilted leaves.
Trim any woody stem ends or tough leaves with a knife. The tasty leaves are edible and so do not need to be removed. Larger bunches can be divided into small, individual florets, each with a short stem, and thicker stems can be sliced to speed cooking. Rinse under cold water. Purple sprouting broccoli boils or steams in 3-6 minutes, depending on the size of floret. In stir-fries, cook it for a couple of minutes until tender to retain crunch.
Place in an airtight bag or container in the fridge for up to a week. Purple sprouting broccoli can be blanched and frozen but its use will then be limited as it loses texture.
Nutrition data per 100g (Raw, Average)
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Purple Sprouting Broccoli Recipes
- Spicy Purple Sprouting Broccoli Pasta
- Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Garlic & Sesame
- Purple Sprouting Broccoli Gratin
Like garlic and onions, leeks are members of the onion (Allium) family. Available all year round, leeks are certainly at their best from November through to April, and if you are growing your own, make a welcome addition to family meals when other vegetables are in short supply during the winter and early spring months.
Useful and tasty as an addition to soups and stir-fries, leeks provide texture and a mild, sweet flavour that is not overpowering. They are a great alternative to onion without losing any of the health benefits.
Leeks are an excellent choice for those following a healthy diet, as they are a vegetable and very low in calories, low in saturated fat and packed full of vitamins A C & K.
If that doesn’t persuade you to include them in your diet they have also been shown to help maintain a healthy heart and reduce cholesterol.
Cut off the root and remove any tough leaves. Make sure you wash them thoroughly to remove any trapped dirt. It may help to cut vertically down through the top and fan out under running water.
Leeks keep well unwashed in the fridge for up to a week or two, simply place in a plastic bag to stop them tainting other foods. They can also be blanched and frozen.
"Leeks - now these are a different kettle of fish altogether. They are lovely on their own just steamed or boiled. They can be used in place of onions in any recipe - they have a gentler flavour so don't be afraid to use plenty. They give a lovely flavour to soups and casseroles. They go well with chicken (or quorn if you're like me) so can be made into something like a sauce, either creamy with creme fraiche or a tomato based sauce for a lower cal option." Kathyaj
Nutrition data per 100g (Unprepared, Average)
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Oysters are bivalve (2 shell) molluscs, and members of the Ostreidae family and we are most familiar with the common European oyster. Oysters are found near the bottom of the sea in coastal areas and the best are said to come from Colchester, Whitstable, and Galway. The upper shell is flattish and is attached to the lower, rounded shell by a ligament.
At 65 calories per 100g, oysters are high in protein (around 10.8g per 100g) and low in fat (1.3g per 100g). They are rich in zinc and contain many other essential minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, iodine, magnesium and selenium.
When buying oysters, they should smell of fresh sea water, and the shells should be clean, bright, tightly-closed and unbroken. Do not buy oysters that you suspect may not be fresh.
While oysters are considered best eaten raw with just a squeeze of lemon or a drop of Tabasco sauce, many people will shy away from the thought of eating them. However they are equally as tasty baked, poached or grilled where the salty tang and slippery texture will be reduced and the creamy flavor will become more pronounced.
Ask your fish monger to open (shuck) your oysters, retaining the shells and any liquid. If you want to shuck your own, first protect your hand with a thick glove or tea towel, then, holding an oyster with the rounded shell downwards, insert an oyster knife (or wide, short screwdriver) between the two halves of the shell and gradually prise them apart, working your way around to the hinge and saving as much liquid as possible. Discard any oysters that are dry, open, or do not smell fresh.
Unopened oysters can be kept in the fridge, covered in wet kitchen towels, for two or three days although you will need to keep a check on them and discard any that open. Do not store in an airtight container, or in fresh water, as this will cause them to die.
Shucked oysters can be kept refrigerated in a sealed container for four or five days. They can also be frozen although will then be better for cooking as opposed to eating raw.
Nutrition data per 100g (raw, Shucked)
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