On Your Plate: Eat Your Trees

Broccoli and cauliflower: the super-powered vegetables

I consider broccoli and cauliflower — members of the Brassica (or cruciferous) family — to be vegetables that people seem to really love or really hate. There’s not much middle ground.

“You’ve got to eat your trees” is a stern but endearing reminder that I remember hearing from a very early age. Back in the day, I didn’t care whether eating my trees would give me big muscles; I just did not like broccoli as a child, so I gagged my way through it. 

Now as a mother, I have fond memories of getting my son to rapidly slam-dunk steamed broccoli, slathered in butter, into his mouth, one tree after another. Boom! I told him it would give him superhero strength — he really wanted that — so he ate it and grew to like it. These are the types of accomplishments that put a big smile on a mama’s face. My boy is almost 12 years old, and he eats the rainbow. (Proud mama here.) 

Broccoli and cauliflower are close cousins to cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips and kale. Vegetables in the Brassica/cruciferous family tend to thrive in a cooler climate and can withstand a hard frost. If you want to grow your own, know that you can start the seeds early, and the transplants should be ready to pop into the ground as soon as the soil is workable. Either plant them very early in the season for a mid- to late-summer harvest, or wait until July to plant the transplants in the ground. They’ll do best when given the opportunity to grow well into autumn.

Broccoli and cauliflower are high in antioxidants and packed with vitamins and minerals. You’ll always get the most nutritional value from any vegetable when it’s eaten raw, and the same goes for both of these. Broccoli is great when cut up into small florets and added to a fresh salad, and cauliflower is a healthful snack, especially when paired with celery and carrots and maybe a small chunk of cheese to nibble. Broccoli has been included in the Super Food category because it’s loaded with fiber, vitamin C and cancer-fighting antioxidants. 

You can find broccoli and cauliflower in shades of green, white, purple and even orange. There are specialty varieties that are really fun and interesting, so look for them at your local farmers’ market. And remember to eat your trees!

How to Put Up Broccoli and Cauliflower

You’ll have garden-fresh veggies all year long

Do you have extra garden produce that you don’t have a use for right this minute? Freezers are fabulous! Follow these simple steps to enjoy your garden’s delights for months to come.

Blanching Your Brassicas

Fill a stock pot with water and 2 Tbsp salt. Bring to a boil.

Prepare a cooling bath of water, 2 Tbsp salt and ice.

Cut broccoli or cauliflower into one-inch florets. Submerge in the boiling water for about one minute; cauliflower may take slightly longer. Remove from the heat and submerge in the ice bath. Once cooled, place vegetables in freezer bags and seal, removing as much trapped air as possible. Store in the freezer for future use. Best if used within six months.

Photo by Brett Kosmider

Purple Broccoli Berry Salad 

4–6 servings

2 heads purple (or green) broccoli, cut into florets 

1/3 cup salted cashews

1/3 cup dried cherries, cranberries or a mixture of both

½ white onion, diced

4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

2 cloves garlic, diced

Add all ingredients to a bowl and toss with dressing (recipe follows). This is a super quick, delicious salad that everyone in the family can enjoy.


½ cup mayonnaise

1 tsp sugar

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Blend all ingredients, and toss with the salad above. Let sit in the fridge for a half hour before serving to allow flavors to blend.

Photo by Brett Kosmider

Spicy Broccoli Cauliflower Cheddar Soup

4–6 servings

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 yellow or white onions, diced

3 garlic cloves, smashed, skins removed

1 jalapeño, diced, with or without seeds*

Splash of white wine

1–2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth

4 cups broccoli florets 

1 cup cauliflower florets

1 cup aged, shredded white cheddar cheese + more for garnish

Chopped cilantro for garnish


Freshly cracked black pepper

*Seeds add more heat and are optional.

Warm a soup kettle to medium-low heat. Add butter, onions, garlic and jalapeño. Sauté until onions are translucent and wilted, for a total of about 10 minutes.

Add a splash of white wine. Sauté for an additional 3–5 minutes. 

Add flour to create a roux. This will thicken the soup. 

Stir in heavy whipping cream and chicken (or vegetable) broth. Whisk to blend. 

Add broccoli and cauliflower florets. Simmer until the vegetables are fork tender, 10–15 minutes. 

Add shredded cheddar cheese and stir until melted.

Blend the soup to desired consistency using an immersion blender. Serve immediately, or keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Garnish with cracked pepper cheddar crostini (recipe follows), chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cracked Pepper Cheddar Crostini

Preheat oven to 400° F.

½ loaf French baguette, sliced thinly on the diagonal

Olive oil to drizzle

Salt to sprinkle 

Shredded white cheddar cheese

Freshly cracked black pepper

Arrange sliced bread in a single layer on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and cheese, and finish with cracked black pepper. Bake for 5–10 minutes. Watch closely — they finish quickly!

Roasted Purple Cauliflower 

Preheat oven to 375° F.

1 head cauliflower, keep whole

Garlic Aioli (recipe follows)

½ cup Panko or other bread crumbs

Garlic Aioli

½ cup mayonnaise

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Juice of ½ lemon

Pinch of salt


Whisk all aioli ingredients together. Drizzle cauliflower with the aioli, covering as much of the cauliflower as possible. Coat with bread crumbs. Bake for 30–45 minutes. Serve whole and slice at the table.