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What Are Brassica Vegetables?
Brassica vegetables are part of the genus Brassicaceae, or mustard family. Brassicas are also categorized as cruciferous vegetables (Cruciferae), or members of the cabbage family. Brassicas are among the most commonly cultivated vegetables in the world, and some of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat.
The Brassica oleracea family of vegetables contains hundreds of subspecies with a range of health benefits, like vitamin C, vitamin K, beta-carotene, and glucosinolates. Brassica vegetables are also a great source of soluble fiber.
15 Types of Brassica Vegetables
The Brassica family features a number of commonly used vegetables.
- Turnips: Purple or white turnips are hearty with a hint of heat, and can be eaten raw in salads, boiled and mashed, or simply roasted like other winter root vegetables. When turnips are young and small in size, steaming is a gentle way to cook them and preserve their natural sweetness. Turnip greens are best enjoyed when young, but leaves in good condition can still be sautéed with garlic, added to soups and stews, or incorporated into mixed green salads.
- Rutabaga: Rutabagas are both larger and sweeter than turnips, with tougher skin. They can be cooked in almost exactly the same ways: When roasted or mashed, the rutabaga’s natural sugars make it an indulgent partner for brown butter and baking spices.
- Radishes: Radishes are a fast-growing root that is mostly used as a crudité, or added as a garnish to bring a cool crunch (with a little heat) to any number of dishes. The tender greens of radishes are edible and taste a bit like mustard greens when the plant is young.
- Wasabi and horseradish: Wasabi and horseradish showcase the potency of the mustard oil that defines the Brassica genus. Renowned for their sinus-tingling heat, wasabi and horseradish can be dried and turned into a seasoning paste, or grated fresh as a garnish.
- Kohlrabi: Known as the “German turnip,” crisp, pale green kohlrabi often mystifies those who are new to its versatile charms. With a flavor and texture very similar to broccoli stems or raw cabbage, kohlrabi is easy to use in a fresh, crunchy slaw, sliced thin on a mandolin for salad, or roasted into tender steak fries.
- Kale: Grown for its edible greens, kale comes in a few variations: curly, bumpy, flat, or feathery. After removing the woody center stem from the kale, it can be enjoyed raw—either in a salad or tossed into a smoothie—sautéed, or even roasted into crispy kale chips.
- Cabbage: Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable that is leafy green, red, or white in appearance and known for its densely formed heads. There are four main varieties, including the long and narrow Napa cabbage (or Chinese cabbage), which is used for kimchi, as a wrap for steamed fish, and more. Cabbage can transform into a refreshing slaw, tastebud-tingling sauerkraut, or a cozy braised side dish.
- Bok choy: Delicate bok choy is a prime candidate for steaming and quick sautés, especially when combined with slivers of garlic cloves and a dash of soy sauce. Slice cleaned bunches into thick ribbons, and add to stir-fries.
- Collard greens: Collard greens are a staple side dish in Southern cooking with a signature bitter flavor, similar to Swiss chard. While collard greens have traditionally been used for heartier cooked dishes (as the leaves can hold up to longer cooking times), these nutritious greens have made their way into health food diets: shredded raw in salads, prepared with steam, and even used to make gluten-free wraps.
- Watercress: Watercress is an aquatic leafy vegetable that grows in the shallow water of cool streams and is one of the oldest salad greens: Ancient Romans dressed raw watercress with pepper, cumin, and garum (fermented fish sauce). Watercress makes a great garnish, but it can take center stage in salads and stir-fries, too.
- Arugula: Peppery arugula is packed with bold flavor, despite the delicate appearance of its leaves. Enjoy the leafy green as a base for salads, piled onto a freshly baked pizza, or in a pesto.
- Mustard greens: A staple in both Asian and Southern cuisines, mustard greens are equally delicious raw or braised. The best way to prepare mustard greens will depend on the variety: Cook curly mustard greens as you would kale, but treat gai choy more like bok choy. Mustard greens will lose their vibrant green color when stewed for a long time, so if the color is important to you, blanch or steam mustard greens before stir-frying, sautéing, or puréeing.
- Cauliflower: Cauliflower is best known for its edible white head—which can be seared in thick-cut steaks, caramelized in the oven, or pureed into savory, creamy soups—but its core stems and leaves cook up nicely over high heat, too, drawing out a sweetness reminiscent of a cooked turnip. Quick-boiled cauliflower rice has recently become a favorite low-carb staple to use in place of high-carb grains like rice and pasta.
- Broccoli: Broccoli is an edible bright green or purple plant with a flowering head, sturdy stalk, and nutrient-dense leaves. Broccoli can be eaten in its entirety and prepared in a myriad of ways: raw, roasted, steamed, sautéed, and even battered and fried. Enjoy it chopped up in a salad, steamed for a quick snack, puréed into a pasta sauce, roasted and served over lentils, rice, quinoa, or other grains with a drizzle of olive oil.
- Brussel sprouts: These crunchy seasonal staples that resemble mini-cabbages are a revelation when their outer leaves are roasted to a salty crisp, leaving the insides meltaway tender. Brussell sprouts are best served steamed, roasted, or sautéed. Pair Brussel sprouts with frizzled lardons, or thinly slice them raw for an unbeatable winter salad with kale and citrus.
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