Ed­i­ble of the year: Bras­sica

Manitoba Gardener Magazine - - CONTENTS -

The Bras­sica fam­ily of plants is one of the most pro­lific gen­era of veg­eta­bles in the world, en­joyed by count­less gen­er­a­tions in many forms and play­ing a star­ring role in many cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant recipes. Bras­sica veg­eta­bles, in­clud­ing bok choy, cab­bage, cau­li­flower, col­lards, broc­coli, Brus­sels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, rutaba­gas, and turnips are pop­u­lar around the world to­day and have been a ma­jor food source for as long as any­one can re­mem­ber. The Chi­nese philoso­pher Con­fu­cius, be­fore dy­ing in 479 B.C. wrote over 300 tra­di­tional songs de­scrib­ing life in the Chou dy­nasty. Many of the songs were agri­cul­tur­ally themed and named over 40 foods of the time, in­clud­ing cab­bage! Per­haps con­tem­po­rary song­writ­ers should de­vote more lyrics to healthy eat­ing and the joys of agri­cul­ture!

Health

Also known as cole crops, de­rived from the Latin word caulis, de­not­ing the stem or stalk of a plant, Bras­sica pro­vides plenty of nu­tri­tion (vi­ta­min C and sol­u­ble fiber) and healthy doses of glu­cosi­no­lates, a com­pound that helps re­duce the risk of var­i­ous can­cers of the di­ges­tive tract. In ad­di­tion, red bras­si­cas pro­vide mega-doses of An­tho­cyanin (a pow­er­ful anti-ox­i­dant) at bar­gain prices. Some glu­cosi­no­lates have a bit­ter flavour that makes them un­palat­able to some peo­ple. Mod­ern breed­ing has re­placed some of the bit­ter glu­cosi­no­lates with neu­tral-fla­vored ones so that all palates can en­joy bras­si­cas.

Most mem­bers of our gar­den bras­si­cas are all mem­bers of the same species: Bras­sica ol­er­acea. Sim­ple and nat­u­ral mu­ta­tions lead to the devel­op­ment of large leaves in kale and col­lards, while other mu­ta­tions re­sulted in the devel­op­ment of heads in cab­bage, ar­rested flower devel­op­ment in broc­coli and cau­li­flower, or pro­lific devel­op­ment of ax­il­lary buds in Brus­sels sprouts. Other mem­bers of the bras­sica fam­ily in­clude Chi­nese cab­bage, radish (root), and kohlrabi (swollen stem).

In many ar­eas, bras­sica crops are best planted in the early spring or fall. Many can en­dure or em­brace a light frost so con­sider them ex­ten­ders of your gar­den­ing year. Over­all, bras­si­cas are easy to grow, just fol­low the di­rec­tions that come with the seed or plants that you pur­chase and en­joy them in your gar­den.

Red Acre Cab­bage adds colour to coleslaws.

Savoy Cab­bage is best eaten cooked.

Ro­manesco cau­li­flower is great for roast­ing.

Cau­li­flower does best in fall or mild sum­mers.

Bok Choy, a.k.a Pak Choi.

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