I’m certainly behind one thing George Bush said. He once honked off broccoli growers everywhere when he stated,”I do not like broccoli.”
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the benefits or even the taste. When doused with enough hollandaise sauce, anything tastes good. But then, I’m not in the position to follow up with, “…I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!”
What I dislike about broccoli is the way raw broccoli smells when added to bird food recipes. It makes the entire result of the recipe smell like, well, broccoli. And that tends to be an issue with me. It might be good for my greys, but if it makes my home smell like the back room of an organic farm stand, I won’t use it.
I did appreciate its benefits, so I did a little research and found a non-odiferous cousin: broccoli rabe.
This is the shyer version of the two. On one hand, you have broccoli. Now he’s like the guy who walks into the party smelling like he doused himself in a vat of some bizarre cologne named Evacuate! You know the type.
Whereas broccoli rabe is the young woman who has just dabbed a bit of cologne behind each ear and you can only smell it on her if you get close enough.
Essentially, you get all of the nutrition of broccoli without that weird smell.
A member of the Brassica or cabbage family, (this explains that hefty smell) this mild-mannered giant has a nutritional right hook that will surprise you. Broccoli rabe is a standard in the Italian kitchen where they learned to pair it with starchy and spicy foods: pasta, garlic etc.
But it’s in the nutrient department where it really shines. You will find more than half your daily requirement of vitamins A and C both of which are full of antioxidants in a three and a half ounce serving. These antioxidants fight off those free radicals that damage the body’s cells and have found to be associated with quite a few major health issues such as cancer. It also contains the antioxidant lutein, which protects your eyes from free radical damage.
Broccoli rabe contains folate, a type of vitamin B as well as potassium, fiber and yes, calcium, which is super for your birds.
When you are at the market, hunt for a vivid green color, and strong, chubby stalks. Don’t select any bunches with yellowing leaves or dry ends on the stalks. You want to choose youth over age in this instance. The older the rabe, the tougher and stronger it is.
Being tougher and stronger works well in some circumstances, say if you are in a bar fight, but these virtues work against you when selecting vegetables. And while you’re at it, give your nose something to do. Take a sniff. If it smells like cabbage, move on.
I like to use broccoli rabe in the chopped vegetables I make and freeze. It stands up to the freezing process quite well and the birds seem to like it. It’s more plentiful in the cold weather months and you’ll see it labeled under different names: broccoli rabe of course, but you might see it labeled rapini, broccoletti, or cima di rapa.
They are all the same vegetable: Brassica rapa ruvo. But like many things, such as the African grey, or red-tailed parrot, there are different names for the same thing. No matter what it’s called where you live, try this powerful and potent green for your flock. It really delivers the nutritional goods.