Field to Fork: The broccoli breakthrough

A bevy of broccoli from a non-bolting variety that helped Munn better appreciate the maligned vegetable, coming into season soon.

By By Rachael Munn, Program Director for ReRooted Connections, Decorah

Growing up, I was never a fan of broccoli. The over-cooked mush from the school cafeteria went best stuffed in an empty milk carton (evading the cafeteria veggie police), and the rubbery raw stuff at potlucks and holiday parties was just a vehicle for ranch dressing. Needless to say, broccoli was rarely on the menu once I had any say in the matter.

When our twins were born, my husband and I were advised to eat what we wanted our kids to eat. Determined to raise healthy eaters, we dutifully cooked, smashed and ate up (sometimes with feigned delight) all the veggies we could think of – including broccoli. And of course, the veggie that took hold with my two little darlings – became a first word, even – was broccoli.

It seemed I was going to have to learn to like broccoli – if not for my health, at the very least to be a good parent. I tried growing it in my garden, knowing that the magic of homegrown veggies often helped develop a taste for them. But in the Iowa heat, the heirloom varieties I chose always went to seed before producing any heads. So I continued to chew on the store-bought broccoli that came strangled in plastic, saying to my kids through giant mouthfuls: “mmm” and “yum,” and “good, huh?” — all the while wishing I had one of those cardboard milk containers to spit it into. How could I ever consider myself to be a good parent while living such a lie?

When my family moved to Decorah to become the caretakers at ReRooted Connections, we took on the responsibility of growing and maintaining the Edible Landscape at Winneshiek Medical Center, from which produce is used by Nutrition Services in the cafeteria. It was here that I was introduced to a selection of bolt-resistant hybrid broccolis. For the first time, I successfully grew from seed those beautiful tightly bound heads of broccoli that looked just like the pictures in the seed catalogs. And it was delicious! Perfectly crisp and so sweet, with just the tiniest hint of bitterness to bring all the flavors together. It wasn’t that I didn’t like broccoli – it’s just that I hadn’t had the right kind: fresh and filled with local flavor.  

My family of broccoli lovers continues to eat it voraciously in all forms: cooked, steamed, raw – even frozen. One of my favorite recipes is from the
online food blog, Love and Lemons. Nearly everything in this recipe can be grown at home or sourced locally, and I don’t even have to lie about how good it is.

A bevy of broccoli from a non-bolting variety that helped Munn better appreciate the maligned vegetable, coming into season soon.


Broccoli Salad


1 pound chopped broccoli crowns (2-3 heads)

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp mayo

1-1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp maple syrup or honey

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 tsp sea salt

Splash of fresh lemon juice

1/3 c. diced red onions

1/3 c. dried cranberries

Smoked Almonds

(Candied black walnuts and sunflower seeds are delicious locally sourced alternatives.)

1/2 cup whole almonds

1/2 cup pepitas

1 tbsp tamari

1/2 tsp maple syrup

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

In a large bowl, combine chopped broccoli, onions and cranberries.

Whisk together olive oil, mayo, mustard, syrup, garlic and salt.

Pour onto the broccoli mixture and toss to coat.

While the salad is marinating, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toss almonds and pepitas in tamari, syrup, and paprika mixture.

Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes. Let cool completely before combining with the rest of the salad.

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