It is the final proof. There is no such thing as God. For if he was up there, swishing around on a cloud in heaven, surely he would not have invested broccoli with the good-health-giving properties found in its green blooms by researchers at the University of East Anglia this week.
Only a being of considerable malevolence would imbue the Mumford and Sons of veg with sufficient sulforaphane to ward off the degenerative effects of arthritis. Why not choose plump, pink lobster? Or comingle it with the juice of a sirloin steak? Or else conceal it in the soft, pulpy flesh of a nectarine? I mean, broccoli...it’s just so, well, beige.
It is that very inoffensiveness that makes it such a chore. Along with its cousins sprouts and cauliflower, it forms a cartel of dullness that has annexed every school and hospital menu you’re ever likely to come across. Unlike sprouts, however, which can be improved with chestnuts and a bit of pancetta, or cauliflower, which has long bolstered its image by teaming up with a slick of melted cheese, there is no accompaniment on earth that can improve the flavour of broccoli. You can try and disguise its insipidness - industrial quantities of chilli help – but you will still have something with the all the flavour of a piece of oxygen-flavoured gum. It just that now it’s that bit spicier.
Just look at broccoli’s place in literature. The potato had its champion in Seamus Heaney (“Split by the spade, they show white as cream") and Robert Louis Stevenson may have taken care of the onion ("Let first the onion flourish there, Rose among roots, the maiden-fair”). Sylvia Plath even found inspiration in her breakfast mushrooms. But broccoli? You will look in vain for an ode to those miniature green trees. And that is because broccoli is rubbish.
Give it no sympathy, though. It is a vegetable which knows what it is about. And what it is about is boring you into submission. Choose celeriac, then - or plump for pumpkin. Anything but broc. It lures one with promises of good health and long life - but that way only boredom lies.
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