In March, when another serving of kale fails to inspire, purple sprouting broccoli (PSB) pushes from its overwintering state to produce beautiful and tasty florets that will continue to appear until mid-spring. Unlike its late summer, green-headed broccoli cousin, all parts of PSB are delicious, from the individual florets on delicate stem to the tender leaves.
PSB may be new to the Pacific Northwest but this sweet and tender harbinger of spring has been grown in other corners of the world since Roman times. Planted in midsummer, PSB requires the chill of winter to produce its springtime florets. You may ask: Why is PSB just now making its way to the produce section of my grocery store? The varieties of PSB that are commonly available to growers in our region were developed for milder climates and are too sensitive to our cold temperatures that can dip to 14°F (-9°C).
In 2010, OSA and Organically Grown Company (OGC) began working with Pacific Northwest farmers to develop a variety of PSB that could withstand the variables of winter and thrive once the weather warmed. The result is a locally grown crop that gives our farmers fresh produce to take to market at a time when fields are mostly bare, offering people a taste of spring with every delicious bite of purple sprouting broccoli. OSA and OGC are working to commercially release the seed of this variety in the coming years.
Quick Glance at PSB
Seasonality: Fresh purple sprouting broccoli (PSB) is available in the Pacific Northwest from late winter to late spring.
Tasting notes: Mild and sweet with tender stems, all parts of PSB can be eaten. Avoid over cooking for best taste and texture.
Cooking tips: PSB turns a deep green when cooked. Into the pot one color and out another, cooking PSB is a magic trick to share with your kids. For optimum nutrition just trim and lightly steam or sauté. Oven roast or grill after a toss in olive oil much as you would fresh asparagus. Split larger stem halfway up for even cooking.
Nutritional notes: Low in calories, rich in antioxidants, iron, folic acid, calcium, fiber, and vitamin C, purple sprouting broccoli will fortify your diet at a time of year when few locally grown fresh vegetables are available.
Special Recipe from Chef Timothy Wastell of Sweedeedee, Portland, Oregon
Cashew-miso roasted purple sprouting broccoli & radishes
- 16 oz purple sprouting broccoli
- 1 bunch spicy radishes
- 2 oz white miso paste
- 2oz lightly toasted cashews
- 2 oz good maple syrup
- 1 oz unseasoned rice wine vinegar
- 1 large lime
- High-quality flake sea salt, such as Jacobsen or Maldon
- Fresh cracked black pepper
Set oven to high broil setting.
Make the cashew miso paste by combining the cashews and miso paste and working with a mortar and pestle until smooth. Add the maple syrup, rice vinegar, and juice of half of the lime and continue to mix until homogenous. Thin out a bit with cold water if necessary. The texture should be akin to that of tahini paste. Set aside or store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Wash, dry, and trim the PSB into long skinny pieces, leaving florets as intact as possible. Transfer to mixing bowl.
Wash and dry the radishes if necessary, and cut them through the stem into quarters, leaving the best-looking leaves as attached as possible and add to the mixing bowl. Thinly slice the remaining radishes on a mandolin and set aside in a small container of ice water.
Dress the PSB and quartered radishes with the cashew miso paste and arrange on an oven safe tray and broil until lightly charred, about three or four minutes. Transfer to a serving dish, arrange sliced radishes on top, and finish with flake salt and juice of the remaining half lime. Serves 4