Facebook feeds of friends are filled these days with snapshots of price tags of vegetables in the market. Per kilo, pitaw (yard-long beans) costs more than pork belly. Broccoli is more expensive than sirloin beef.
The initial reaction is a mixture of bewilderment and shock. Then, anger. How can prices just keep going up?
For starters, it’s been a long monsoon season and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be over soon. Second, the government has implemented a new tax scheme. Although agricultural products like vegetables are exempt from VAT, related services to get the vegetables from the farm to the market are not.
What related services? Transportation and rental of market stalls, for instance. The purchase of vehicles to transport the goods. The fuel to power those vehicles. So, you know, by the time the vegetables reach the market and shelves of groceries, the prices have ballooned. As they keep ballooning, we want to waste nothing in the kitchen.
Take broccoli, for example. We’re so used to thinking “florets” when we buy broccoli. But did you know that broccoli stems are edible, delicious and nutritious? Here’s how to prep them for best results.
Visually identifying the edible portion of the broccoli stem
Cut off the stem as near to the head (the cluster of florets) as possible. Stand the stem upright and see the sport where the skin ends and the light-colored center begins. It’s not hard to spot it because the center is smoother and lighter.
Once you have an idea how thick the skin is, cut it off on one side.
Now, broccoli stem is not a straight rod. It curves. It is thicker in places and thinner in others. To get as much of the edible portion of the stem as possible, follow the curves when cutting off the rest of the skin.
How to cook broccoli stem
Broccoli stem is not as flavorful as the florets. The mouth feel is different too. It’s similar to chayote but not as watery. In flavor, it is rather bland.
It is its shape, size and texture that makes it versatile. Because you get the edible portion of the stem in one whole piece, you have so many options on how to cut it. Cubed? Diced? Sliced?
And because you can cut the broccoli stem in so many ways, how you cook it offers a lot of possibilities. Add to soup, blanch, stir fry, steam…
Note, however, that broccoli stem takes longer to cook than the florets. If you’re using the stem and florets together in one dish, add the cut stem to the pan first and cook for a minute or two before adding the florets.
Additional info about broccoli stem
If you buy a small head of broccoli, it is unlikely that you will get any edible portion of the stem. The smaller the broccoli, the thinner the stem and the smaller the edible portion inside.
So, everything described above is useful information when preparing a large head of broccoli.