Delicious Living Blog

Green rehab: Bring back brassicas!

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Why we need to rethink our communal disdain for broccoli and other brassicas.

My mom is one of those rare people who has always loved broccoli. Being a native Costa Rican, she grew up with an appreciation for fresh, healthy food; in that country, salad’s main ingredient isn’t lettuce but rather shredded cabbage, another great brassica.

I guess I’m a product of both her cruciferous culinary taste and my own knowledge of the hearty nutrients these humble vegetables offer. But ask most people and you’ll find that broccoli ranks near the bottom of the most-loved food chain. In fact, last fall our editorial team met with local ad agency Victors & Spoils to help brainstorm a faux marketing campaign for broccoli (“Broccoli’s Extreme Makeover,” by Michael Moss, The New York Times, November 2013). Discussions ranged from why broccoli is so overlooked and derided to how to hijack some of kale’s recent trendiness. (One tongue-in-cheek slogan: “Broccoli: Now 43% less pretentious than kale.”)

Imagine my delight when three enterprising Yale students picked up the story and decided to make it a reality in New Haven, Connecticut! They partnered with local natural retailers (hats off to you, Edge of the Woods Natural Market and Elm City Market), lined up a florist to deliver “broquets,” and even funded a full-size billboard—“Eat Fad-Free: Broccoli vs. Kale” on Interstate 91. “It’s so refreshing to see catchy, well-designed ads on giant billboards for broccoli, rather than clever ads for the newest chip or soft drink,” wrote student Adam Goff on their Kickstarter page. (Update: I just heard from Andy Nathan at Victors & Spoils that New Haven broccoli sales went up 111% during the March campaign!)

This is refreshing indeed, especially as plant-based eating surges in popularity, thanks to paleo diets, concerns about meats’ sustainability, and good old-fashioned economics. The timing couldn’t be more perfect for Laura B. Russell’s new cookbook, Brassicas (Ten Speed, 2014), a gorgeous paean to these superhealthy, inexpensive, and versatile foods. Russell shares five of her cookbook’s recipes with us this month. Try them, and post your photos on our Facebook page. Trust me: Rehab never tasted so good.

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