Fresh broccoli can be deliciously sweet and crisp. Unfortunately, most of us don't have access to the just-picked stuff; by the time it gets to supermarkets, it can be soft (or worse, limp) and stinky (science backs this up
: the vegetable can take on a sharp smell from the sulfur compounds that develop with time). To avoid bad broccoli, buy it on days when it's just been stocked (ask your grocer) and check for these telltale signs of freshness: the florets should be tight, not loose and green, not yellow; the stalks should feel firm and the ends shouldn't look dried out or be starting to brown; and, the entire vegetable should feel heavy for its size. When you get it home, keep it very cold: Although the USDA recommends keeping your fridge at 40 degrees or lower, broccoli does best right above the freezing mark, at 32.5 to 35 degrees (and using the crisper drawer is crucial, since its humid air will prevent the florets and stems from wilting). One final piece of advice: If you're going to cut the broccoli into florets for snacking, store them in the fridge wrapped loosely in plastic, since they dry out quickly.