OUTSIDER AMONG VEGIES: Gatton broccoli farmer and Rugby Farms director Matt Hood says sweeter strains are being developed.
OUTSIDER AMONG VEGIES: Gatton broccoli farmer and Rugby Farms director Matt Hood says sweeter strains are being developed. David Nielsen

Obama, Rudd declare their love for broccoli

BROCCOLI is most kids' least favourite food. No amount of cheese sauce or convincing they are "little trees" will make them happily pick up a fork and eat it.

That was until last week when Barack Obama declared broccoli his favourite food. Not hotdogs, tater tots or twinkies, but broccoli.

The White House announcement reignited a political hot potato launched when George Bush Senior banned the vitamin-rich vegetable from all meals served on Airforce One in 1990, stating "I do not like broccoli…I'm the President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat broccoli anymore."

One Australia's biggest producers of broccoli is family-owned Rugby Farms in the Lockyer Valley, which supplies five million kilograms to seven capital cities each year.

Director Matt Hood welcomed the Obama promotion. He said encouraging fruit and vegetables to be shopping basket staples over fast foods was an ongoing challenge for the industry.

"Obama must be the only fellow in the world whose favourite food is broccoli," the AUSVEG grower of the year said.

"Generally people buy it regularly, but to get new people to buy it on a weekly basis is our challenge," he said. "We know it is good for us but unfortunately not everyone likes the taste of it."

Horticulture body AUSVEG called on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Friday to disclose his feelings about broccoli.

"Broccoli should be compulsory eating for all Australian politicians in this turbulent election year, due to the blood pressure lowering effects of the green vegetable," AUSVEG spokesman Hugh Gurney said.

"The Australian people need to be assured that the leader of our nation is eating healthy amounts of broccoli, regarded as a preventative of a litany of health problems.

"With only 5% of adults eating the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables, it is hoped that presidential endorsements, and endorsements from Prime Minister Rudd, will get more Australians putting broccoli back on the menu." Shortly after Mr Rudd responded to AUSVEG with a tweet: "Had some for lunch :) KRudd".

In Australia, broccoli is the fifth most purchased vegetable, bought weekly by about 50% of Australian households.

Mr Hood, who grows broccoli year-round in Gatton and on the Darling Downs, said sweeter varieties similar to broccolini were proving to be popular.

"There a few new variations coming out like the baby broccoli, which has a lot sweeter taste and that product is going quite well as an alternative to broccoli," he said.

Broccoli is high in vitamins C and A, and is also an important source of calcium, a mineral linked to control of high blood pressure and prevention of colon cancer.