Broccoli hates too much heat, which is why 90 percent of it sold in the United States comes from temperate California, which is often bathed by fog. The heads are fine if you live there, but for the rest of us they require a long truck ride (four or five days to the East Coast) and then some waiting time in a warehouse, tarnishing the appeal of a vegetable that health experts can’t praise enough.
But Mr. Bjorkman and a team of fellow researchers are out to change all that. They’ve created a new version of the plant that can thrive in hot, steamy summers like those in New York, South Carolina or Iowa, and that is easy and inexpensive enough to grow in large volumes.
And they didn’t stop there: This crucifer is also crisp, subtly sweet and utterly tender when eaten fresh-picked, which could lift the pedestrian broccoli into the ranks of the vegetable elite. Think Asian-style salads of shaved stems, Mr. Bjorkman suggests, or an ultra-crisp tempura with broccoli that doesn’t need parboiling.
“If you’ve had really fresh broccoli, you know it’s an entirely different thing,” he said.