Note: This article first appeared in the print edition of theÂ Press-EnterpriseÂ on April 20, 2014, in theÂ Inlandia Instituteâ€˜s weekly column.
As you must know if youâ€™ve bothered with this section of the paper, weâ€™re currently knee-deep in National Broccoli Month. The official 2014 National Broccoli Month poster, which I pre-ordered for free in quadruplicate last fall, is plastered over all four windows in my office, lest I forget the season or feel the urge to look out at the cruelty of the lilac bushâ€™s breeding. Youâ€™ve seen this yearâ€™s image, too, on the backs of bus benches and screen-pressed on tote bagsâ€”but nothing beats the effect of the full posterâ€™s 16:9 aspect ratio: a field of broccoli, still green, stretching to the horizon in rows clipped with care like lines of meter in some olde thyme poem you read in high school, the cerulean sky bluer than the purest water high aboveâ€”and basking angelic upon it the official 2014 National Broccoli Month slogan: â€œA Branch a Day Keeps Dementia at Bay.â€
And if youâ€™ve been eating your broccoli, as you should, youâ€™ll remember that it was almost 20 years ago that the Academy of American Cabbage brought together the nationâ€™s leading grocers, botanists, harvester manufacturers, and Monsanto with the aim of creating the first month-long celebration of broccoli. In April of 1996, National Broccoli Month was launched. The goal then was the same as it is now: to engage the public and heighten broccoliâ€™s visibility and availability in popular culture.
Why celebrate broccoli? Because broccoli at its best is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber. Itâ€™s also full of nutrients with anti-cancer properties, including diindolylmethane, selenium, and sulforaphane. Broccoli is higher in carotenoids than any other plant in the cabbage family.
Remember, though, that boiling broccoli reduces the levels of these compounds, so donâ€™t boil your broccoli. Eat it raw, or steamed, or stir-fried to achieve the full nutritional effect.
No matter how you eat it, broccoli is far more healthy than French fries or pizza or most of the other delicious garbage that youâ€™re consuming 11 months of the year in your incessant gluttonous quest for biological sustenance. Thatâ€™s why even fast food chains have embraced National Broccoli Monthâ€”itâ€™s not just a ploy for profit. So drive up to your nearest drive-thru and order a broccoli-burger with a side of stalk fries! You deserve it and your brain will thank you!
You might be asking yourself, how could anyone argue against National Broccoli Month? Donâ€™t we all deserve to be healthy?
I have to admit that some broccoli growers were opposed to this celebration from the start, claiming that the focus on mainstream broccoli breeds overshadows the more exotic and nutritious varieties of cabbage, such as benefortÃ©, a cross with the wild Brassica oleracea var villosa that contains twice as much glucoraphanin.
Still others point out that broccoli is a hidden staple in the American diet as it is and doesnâ€™t need a marketing pitch, or, moreover, that this particular marketing pitch doesnâ€™t even workâ€”broccoli shouldnâ€™t be sold as a vitamin that you feel guilty for avoiding; broccoli is a decadent vegetable that is inherently subversive, branching as it does in mysterious and monochromatically psychedelic fractals. If we have to market broccoli, they say, it should be marketed as a mustard weed. This is your brainâ€”this is your brain on broccoli. Imagine attractive people daringly eating broccoli on a billboard. High schoolers sneaking broccoli in the bathroom between meals. If you want to be manipulative, they say, then at least manipulate. This is Brassica oleracea weâ€™re talking about, not your 30 minutes of exercise daily!
But obviously these growers have been consuming too much of their own broccoli.
So how can you enjoy your daily dose during this National Broccoli Month? Here are some ideas, courtesy of the Academy of American Cabbage:
Put a broccoli in your pocket.
Take a broccoli out to lunch.
Share some broccoli with a coworker.
Eat a branch of broccoli at a movie theater.
Watch a movie about broccoli.
Support broccoli by petitioning Congress.
Donate to a broccoli growersâ€™ union.
Put a stalk of broccoli on the pavement.
Revisit an old piece of broccoli.
Buy broccoli. Then buy more broccoli for a friend.
If you follow just a few of these simple suggestions, you can make broccoli a part of your daily life this April.
And then you wonâ€™t have to eat any more broccoli until 2015. I promise.