Purple sprouting broccoli

Bid the rich indulgences of the past few months farewell, and prepare for the emergence of melt-in-your-mouth fresh, new-season, leafy green (and purple) vegetables with recipes by Linda Tubby

Purple sprouting broccoli

After a quiet few months of leafy green vegetables, the advent of the purple sprouting broccoli season provides a welcome addition to the winter vegetable offerings. Belying its unflattering name, purple sprouting broccoli has a surprising sophistication. With dark green leaves that peel back to reveal splendid purple heads supported by long, slim stems, it stands out elegantly against the roots, bulbous cabbages and rotund sprouts of last season.

Broccoli is a cruciferous plant – it’s in the same family as the cabbage – and has been grown in the UK since the early 18th century (although the purple sprouting variety has only filtered into our food consciousness in the last 30 years). Almost all cruciferous foods are celebrated for their important health benefits, and purple sprouting broccoli contains the phytochemical sulforaphane, thought to help prevent cancer and which may provide resistance against heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.

As if those weren’t enough plus points, the vegetable is packed with vitamin C and is a good source of carotenoids, iron, folic acid, calcium, fibre and vitamin A.

Purple sprouting broccoli is in peak season at the moment. Master Farm in Jersey produces purple sprouting broccoli for local farm shops and markets, as well as for popular organic delivery company, Abel and Cole. Owner Phil le Maistre has three acres of land dedicated to growing the purple superfood, and produces three or four tonnes each winter, putting his success down to the Jersey climate and his south-facing slopes. His advice when buying purple sprouting broccoli is to try and get it when it’s young and tender and to look for darkly coloured specimens with crisp stalks, no bigger than 1cm in diameter.

Food writer Rose Elliot, author of New Complete Vegetarian, is a keen advocate of purple sprouting broccoli and offers the following serving suggestions: ‘Think asparagus – break the stems where they become tough, or run a potato peeler down the lower stems so you’re left with the tender centre. Cook them in a pan with a little boiling water and the lid on, so they are half boiled, half steamed, for 4-6 minutes, until they are tender but not soggy. I love them with melted butter and a squeeze of lemon.

‘If I’m being honest, I like to pick up the spears with my fingers and dip them in melted butter – they’re great too with satay sauce. Sprinkle with grated parmesan and grill, or serve with hollandaise sauce as a luxurious first course. Although I like them served simply, try adding them to a Thai curry with carrots, mangetouts, baby sweetcorn, coconut milk, curry paste, fresh coriander, and topped with crushed salted peanuts.’

Purple sprouting broccoli


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