Last month my naturopath suggested I start eating more cruciferous vegetables, also known as brassicas. When I say “more”, I mean try to eat a serving a day. At the time it didn’t sound too big of a deal considering I love to eat brassicas. We have a variety of brassicas planted in our garden this year: cabbage, broccoli, kale, bok choy, horseradish and kholrabi. Once I started trying to eat a serving of brassicas a day, I realized how few recipes I have to prepare them.
Then I discovered the cookbook “Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables” by Laura B. Russell (You can find it here) A whole cookbook dedicated to brassicas. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time in my life! What first caught my eye with this cookbook was the lovely picture on the front cover showing the deep color hues of a variety of brassicas. The day this cookbook showed up in the mail, Little A and I opened it immediately and began perusing the recipes. It showed up at our house around 3pm and by the end of the day we had already made two of the recipes from the cookbook!
What are Brassicas and Why You Should Eat Them
I guess I should back up a minute and make sure you all know what brassicas are and why you should love them as much as I do. Brassicas are a family of vegetables that are also sometimes referred to as the cabbage family or mustard family. The forward in the Brassicas cookbook written by Rebeccas Katz states:
“Ounce for ounce, brassicas contain more healing properties than any other branch of food. We’re not just talking about your basic building blocks o f vitamins and minerals-though brassicas are full of these-but foods rich in phytochemicals that act as anticarcinogens (anticancer), anti-inflamatories, and promote liver detoxification.”
Here is a list of vegetables in the brassica family:
- Brussel Sprouts
- Leafy Brassicas (Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Broccoli Rabe, Arugula, Cress)
- Asian Brassicas (Bok Choy, Chinese Broccoli, Mizuna, Napa Cabbage, Tatsoi)
- Root Brassicas (Radish, turnip, rutabaga, horseradish, wasabi, kohlrabi)
Eating and Cooking Brassicas
Growing up, the brassicas we ate were mainly cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts. We typically had broccoli boiled until soft with a spice or cheese on top. Really, it wasn’t that appetizing (sorry mom!) We had cabbage in coleslaw or a casserole dish. Brussels sprouts were my worst nightmare when they showed up on my plate after being boiled to a bitter mush ball. I hated their bitter taste and until yesterday refused to go anywhere near them. As I kid I tried to steer clear of brassicas. Years later, I realized how healthy these foods are for us and started incorporating them into the meals we eat on a regular basis.
The beginning of the Brassicas Cookbook has a section on “Brassica Basics”. This is where author Laura Russell explains the vegetables that make up the Brassica family, flavor profiles, how to select/store/clean brassicas, and basic cooking methods. What really resonated with me in this section was reading this:
“My theory on why so many people think they don’t like brassicas revolves around how the vegetables are prepared…..boiling brassicas breaks down their cell walls (releasing sulfur compounds) faster and more aggressively than any other cooking method, which can produce unpleasant odors and also lead to overcooking.”
I couldn’t agree more!
The cookbook Brassicas is arranged in chapters according to the type of vegetable. This makes it really easy to find recipes since I can flip right to the chapter on kale or broccoli when I want to find a recipe for that vegetable. This cookbook goes above and beyond being just a list of recipes. Each chapter describes each specific vegetable, selection process, prep and nutritional value.
We already eat a healthy, real food diet with little to no pre-packaged foods from the grocery store. The Brassicas cookbook had quite a few recipes that will be a great fit for our family. With this cookbook, I’ll easily be able to start incorporating brassicas into my diet on a daily basis. Last night I harvested fresh kale from our garden and made kale chips that even my husband loved! Next up on my list to make are Lemony Broccoli Chop and Five Spice Red Cabbage Salad.
This cookbook has opened up a whole new world of healthy, real food eating for our family. I mentioned earlier the six different types of brassicas we’re growing in our garden this year. After reading about all the other vegetables in the brassica family, I’m already planning our garden for next year to include quite a few more varieties of brassicas.
Want to know the most amazing part of me reading this cookbook? I just put brussells sprouts on my grocery list to try one of these recipes and give them another shot. I never thought this day would come after swearing off brussells sprouts over 20 years ago!
Do you eat or grow brassicas? What are your favorite ways to prepare them?
Thank you to Blogging for Books who provided me with a copy of Brassicas to review. All of the opinions expressed in this review are my own.