If you’ve ever grown broccoli at home and have somehow missed harvest time, you might know that once the weather starts getting hotter small yellow flowers start to appear on the usually-dark-green heads. Not having a garden myself, I had only ever witnessed broccoli turn yellow and dry when it was kept too long at the back of the refrigerator, so I was very surprised to see hundreds of little flowers when my boyfriend and I went to check on his mother’s vegetable garden on Naxos after few months of absence. Suppose a Greek island in the Cyclades is no real place for this cool weather plant…
While many gardeners may not want their broccoli to start bolting (that’s what it is called, apparently), and we were certainly disappointed at first, I found that you can actually still eat the stems, stalks, buds, and flowers. The little buds and flowers taste like a milder, sweeter, slightly-peppery version of regular raw broccoli, so they are great to add raw to many types of salads. Not only is this a great way to use up flowering broccoli before it truly become inedible, but it’s very delicious too!
We had a lot of bolting broccoli and a few florets of ‘regular’ broccoli (not sure why some heads were premature and tiny, while the others were growing wild), which I tossed together with a thin coating of creamy zesty mayonnaise-and-lemon dressing, some salty piquant sheep’s cheese (I used Greek kefalotyri, but you can use Pecorino Romano or even goat’s cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano) and a generous sprinkling of toasted sliced almonds. Quite simple, yet the bright-yellow flowers make the salad look great and taste amazing, plus you avoid the heartbreak of potentially having to toss out food or homegrown produce.
Tip: Don’t feel like eating an entire bowl of raw flowers and stems? The flowers are best eaten raw, but you can cook them too (they will wilt, though). Add a handful of flowers to an omelette or scrambled eggs, or toss some into your pan during the final stage of cooking a stir-fry. Still not convinced? At least make use of a few flowers to garnish other dishes with such as potato salad, pasta dishes, or this cheesy flower wreath.
Broccoli Flower Salad (Bolting Broccoli Recipe)
- for the dressing:
- 60g mayonnaise
- juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 1 small garlic clove
- salt and pepper, to taste
- for the salad:
- 150g broccoli flowers, buds and tender stalks
- 150g broccoli florets (or use more of the bolting broccoli to make the same amount)
- 1 small red onion
- 30g sliced almonds
- 60g hard sheep's cheese such as kefalotyri or Pecorino Romano (use Parmigiano Regianno, if youdon't like sheep's)
- Start by making the dressing: add mayonnaise to a bowl and combine with the zest and juice of the lemon. Crush the small garlic clove and stir into the mayonnaise. Season with salt and/or pepper, if you like. Refrigerate until needed.
- Prepare the toppings: Toast the sliced almonds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until they start to turn brown slightly, then remove from heat and keep aside. Thinly shave the hard sheep’s cheese and keep aside as well.
- Prep the vegetables: wash the broccoli and broccoli flowers and allow to dry slightly (too much water may make the flowers wilt). Either carefully separate the flowers and buds from the stems and chop the stems into bite-sized pieces, or simply snip the stems into smaller pieces with the flowers and buds attached. When using ‘regular’ broccoli florets as well, chop them into smaller pieces too. Peel and cut the red onion in half and slice thinly. Add all chopped vegetables and the flowers/buds to a salad bowl.
- To serve, drizzle dressing over the chopped vegetables and sprinkle over the toasted almonds and cheese. Toss lightly to mix ingredients and serve immediately, or within an hour or two of adding the dressing, so that the flowers do not wilt too much.
Serves 1 to 2 as a main, or 3 to 4 as a side.