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Frozen broccoli is typically packaged within a very short time after harvesting. This preserves the essential nutrients as well as the color and flavor. Many different companies sell frozen broccoli in packages of different sizes and quality. To choose the one that is best you should look for details such as the overall percentage of stems in the package and what additives have been used to enhance the flavor.
Industry standards dictate names for the specific cuts of broccoli. Broccoli spears consist of the florets and a section of the stem, all in one piece. These are often cut the long way so that the spears are consistent in diameter as well as length. Many people like the look and balance of frozen broccoli spears.
Florets are just the head portion of the plant. They can have enough stem to keep the heads together, but no more than is absolutely necessary for that purpose. Florets are often divided so that they are relatively small and generally about the same size.
Cut spears are irregular sized and shaped pieces that are essentially bite-size. A package of cut spears must contain at least 15% florets, but the rest can be made up of stems and leaves. Chopped broccoli is smaller than the cut spears and can contain as much as 35% leaves in addition to the requirement of 15% florets. The rest is made up of chopped stems.
Broccoli florets are the part of the plant that contain the most beta carotene, an important nutrient found in broccoli, as well as most of the vitamin C; florets are typically the part of the vegetable that most people prefer to eat. When choosing the best frozen broccoli, you should look packages containing mostly florets. Next, choose a package size that suits your needs, as broccoli is typically offered in both small boxes and larger bags of loose pieces.
Review what additives are in the frozen broccoli that you are buying. In some cases, the package will contain only broccoli and enough water for processing, but in other cases you may find various seasonings have been added. The most common additive is salt, which can add unwanted sodium to your diet; if you wish to avoid unnecessary salt, don’t buy frozen broccoli with added salt. When buying broccoli with other enhancements, such as cheese sauce, it is best to check the nutritional value since such additives can add both unwanted calories and fat to your food.
When I make a broccoli casserole for covered dish dinners, I generally buy the least expensive store brand of frozen broccoli pieces I can find. Most people don't seem to mind the stems, although I do try to pick out the leaves. If appearance is not a priority, I'm usually happy with whatever frozen broccoli is on sale that week.
I agree with Cageybird about the steam packages. I'll also look for special frozen vegetable blends that are already seasoned, or served in a butter sauce. I'm not that good at creating sauces for vegetables, and it would be more expensive to buy all of those ingredients separately and blend them together.
If I'm going to buy frozen broccoli for future use as a side dish, I generally buy florets. I may pay a little more at the store, but I don't like the stems or leaves at all. The florets have all the flavor and nutrition, anyway. I get the kind of frozen broccoli florets that are packaged in self-steaming bags and put them in the microwave just before serving.
If the broccoli isn't seasoned in the steamer bag, I'll add some melted butter and a little seasoned salt after it comes out of the microwave. I don't like to overcook broccoli, and sometimes the cheaper frozen broccoli will be too mushy.
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