I bought Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book w-a-y back in the 1980’s and I still read fascinating things in it, that I did not know before.
Last night I read it in bed. I should not keep such books beside my bed because I find them irresistible. Many people have lent me books, in the last few months, and I should be reading them at every opportunity but….. well…. I could not put this book down.
Broccoli is one of my favourite vegetables but one I rarely grow well. Now, when I say “broccoli” do tell me if you don’t immediately think I mean big, green heads of it. To me, this is the common broccoli. Of course there are many others but in my ignorance I was amazed to read in the book that purple sprouting broccoli was all there was in England (where Jane Grigson wrote) until the 1970’s. Broccoli actually means flowering shoots…. plural. The book says that the larger heads of green were developed in Italy “recently” and the book was written in 1979.
It seems that the stems in those days were much more popular than they are here, today; although I eat stems, leaves and shoots. Some of the recipes Jane Grigson gives throughout this wonderful book are from ancient food books and just go to show how fashions change in ingredients and cooking methods, just as fashions change with clothes. I would consider the following to be quite innovative recipes, but they date from the Roman days:
Cook the broccoli and serve with cumin, salt, ‘old wine’ (?), fish sauce and olive oil. If you like, add pepper, lovage, mint, rue or coriander and the broccoli leaves.
There is also a recipe for adding broccoli and mallow to soup made by soaking and cooking barley, green lentils, green split peas and chick peas
In the Cygnet Community Garden purple sprouting broccoli does particularly well. We also have broccoli raab, at the moment. I throw them both, raw, in salads, mostly. I once grew some of that gorgeous romanesco broccoli, with the pale green spirals but it took about 9 months.
I don’t go much on the new style of cookbook that has a beautiful photo and one recipe per page. I much prefer books with soul, filled to overflowing with words….. this Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book is just such a one. The pages of mine have all fallen out, there are notes written all through it by me and not a single photo. Perfect.