The People v. Broccoli

A seed purveyor stands in defense of America's most maligned vegetable

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Your honor, I'd like to make a few 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 perhaps the most hated and maligned vegetable of all time.

It is, of course, Broccoli, the most controversial member of the cabbage family, that is on trial today. Yet I shall prove that my client is the vegetable that can do no less than save humankind. I shall demonstrate Broccoli to be the most succulent, tasty and life-enhancing of all vegetables, from the base of its handsome stalk to the crown of its flowery head. 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 heads of clustered flower buds. My client represents nothing less than the pinnacle of vegetable sophistication.

Broccoli is desirable for not only its taste, but also its extraordinary promotion and protection of human health. No plant possesses more antioxidants, vitamins, beneficial enzyme-stimulating compounds and metabolism-enhancing fiber than my client.

Broccoli is richly endowed, by both natural law and thousands of years of continuous human selection, with vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C and K. For instance, a cup of cooked Broccoli provides more vitamin C than an orange. This same cup supplies over 10 percent of the daily requirements of calcium, chromium, magnesium, iron, potassium and zinc. Add metabolizing and enzyme-boosting agents such as folic acid and calcium pectate, and cancer-fighting antioxidants such as beta carotene, carotene and sulphoraphane, particularly in the dark green florets, and you see that eating Broccoli nips diseases in the buds.

Also, it is well known that my client possesses healthful fiber. But it is hardly known that Broccoli contains substantial amounts of cell-building protein and eye-protecting lutein. In short, your honor, my client is as close to perfection as a vegetable can be. For people not to eat Broccoli is a crime.

Therefore, why is savory, succulent and 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." Not true!

I offer two defenses: this apotheosis of subtle flavors and powerfully healthful properties needs to be grown to peak stage -- before the flower buds fully open -- transported quickly from farms and home gardens to the kitchen, and then steamed, par-boiled, sauteed 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.

Second, Broccoli has been capriciously defamed by powerful figures in the world of politics, the media and even the legal profession, for well over a generation. It was in 1990, 22 years ago, that our nation's president declared that he hated my client, resulting in three decades of disparaging remarks by influential figures in all walks of life, from nighttime talk shows to the Supreme Court.

President George H.W. Bush's opinion was an unfortunate result of the commercial production of Broccoli: picked unripe -- thus deficient of both flavors and healthful compounds -- and shipped thousands of miles to sit a week on produce counters. Customers either try them and taste the bitterness without the balancing sugars, or pass them by, frowning, having been swayed by negative publicity.

Then there was Justice Antonin Scalia during oral arguments in the recent health care case, who made it sound as though the worst fate that could befall The People would be being forced to eat Broccoli.

Your honor, it is the children of America who especially will suffer if you do not find my client as delicious as the ubiquitous Spinach, the fashionably red, yellow and chocolate-brown Bell Pepper or the deservedly chic Arugula, et al.

Perception is reality, alas. Yet America's blindness to Broccoli's truly delicious and superior nutritive value is denying our children both an educated palate and a tremendous health boost. From toddlerhood on, our nation's young are brainwashed to regard my client with suspicion and negative a priori judgment.

Therefore, I ask the court to dismiss this case and invite you, the rest of the court, and 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.

Thank you, your honor.


George Ball, chairman of the W. Atlee Burpee seed company, is a past president of The American Horticultural Society.


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