In Defense of Broccoli

It's the perfect vegetable - and also the most maligned one of all time.

Your Honor, I’d like to make some preliminary remarks to provide context and perspective on the case before the court. As a third generation seedsman, I have agreed to pro bono representation of Broccoli, the most maligned vegetable of all time.

I shall prove that my client is the vegetable that can save mankind. I shall demonstrate Broccoli to be the most succulent, tasty, and life-enhancing of all vegetables.

Can you eat Pea’s stringy vine, Corn’s cob, Bean’s coarse stalk, or Melon’s spiny leaf? Only Broccoli allows you to eat the entire plant: asparagus-like stalks, savory green leaves and delicately sweet, nutty-flavored flower buds. My client represents the pinnacle of vegetable sophistication.

Do not overlook Broccoli’s promotion and protection of human health. No plant possesses more antioxidants, beneficial enzyme-stimulating compounds, and metabolism-enhancing fiber, than my client. It abounds with vitamins: A cup of cooked Broccoli provides more vitamin C than an orange. That same cup supplies 10% of daily minerals. Add metabolism- and enzyme-boosting folic acid and calcium pectate and the cancer-fighting antioxidants beta carotene, carotene and sulphoraphane. Broccoli nips disease in the bud. My client contains healthful fiber, cell-building protein and eyeprotecting lutein.

Your Honor, my client is as close to perfection as a vegetable can be. Not to eat Broccoli should be a crime.

Why, then, is savory, succulent, creamy-textured Broccoli on trial? For being too healthy? Too tasty? Too easy to grow in all 50 states? No: my client is accused of being “too bitter.”

I offer two defenses: First, this apotheosis of subtle flavors and powerfully healthful properties needs to be grown to full ripeness. Second, it must be transported from farms or home gardens to the kitchen quickly, and then steamed, sautéed, grilled or stir-fried. Thereby I can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that my client possesses the most sublime vegetable flavor available to the human palate.

Broccoli has been capriciously defamed and disparaged by influential figures in all walks of life, from nighttime talk-show hosts to Supreme Court justices. Nearly three decades ago, President George H.W. Bush declared that he did not like my client. His remark was an unfortunate result of the commercial production of Broccoli: picked unripe—thus deficient of flavors and healthful compounds—and shipped thousands of miles to languish for weeks on produce counters.

Therefore, I ask the court to dismiss this case, and invite you, the court, the plaintiff, and the People, to lunch in my garden. Justice will be served—steamed and drizzled with melted butter and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Mr. Ball is chairman and CEO of W. Atlee Burpee Co. and a past president of the American Horticultural Society.


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