Brassicaceae: The Cabbage and Mustard Family
We work with a local herbalist https://www.facebook.com/HerbsForHealthAndWellbeingLtd And she often talks to us about various plants and their properties. Here is some interesting info she sent us about about Brassicas!
Brassicaceae: The Cabbage and Mustard Family
Taxonomy: The Brassicaceae is a dicotyledon family which means that its seeds sprout with two leaves. It is currently thought to contain around 380 genera (The Genus – the first part of the scientific name) and over 3500 species. Most of the species are native to temperate regions of the Northern hemisphere.
Only a few are grown as ornamentals, most Brassicas are very important as food crops: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, turnip, kale, brussel sprouts etc. Around 40% of all vegetables consumed in Northwest Europe are members of the Brassica family.
Many Brassicaceae are commonly found wild in the UK, e.g. Garlic mustard, Hedge mustard, Cuckooflower, Charlock, Shepherds purse and Scurvy grass.
This family was formerly known as the Cruciferae: a reference to their characteristic 4 cross-shaped petals. They are a highly uniform group and so Brassicaceae are easily identified as such. However, they can be difficult to tell apart.
- They are usually herbaceous in habit, occasionally becoming shrubby.
- Leaves are alternate and either simple or pinnate.
- The distinctive flowers are yellow, white or pinkish/purplish and are usually carried in a spike. They have 2 fused carpels and 6 stamens: usually 4 long, 2 short. They are odourless.
- The fruit is a capsule.
Key medicinal theme: Pungency and stimulation
Brassica plants are particularly rich in glucosinolates (Mustard oil glycosides which are an active constituent within the plant) and therefore a spicy mustardy taste is characteristic of the family.
The glucosinolates are probably responsible for most of the medicinal actions of the herbs of this family. They are digestive stimulants and respiratory decongestants with antibacterial and antifungal actions. Externally, they have a rubefacient effect (they help to bring the circulation to the surface of the skin) exploited in the use of the mustards and cabbage in poultices for anti-inflammatory effects.
Brassicas are also usually a good source of vitamin C.
Brassicaceae were only rarely used in folk medicine in the UK. The most frequent uses are for scurvy and as purifying tonics (Nasturtium officinale, Scurvy-grass and Charlock); and for topping bleeding (Capsella bursa-pastoris only)
Broccoli, as technically a “bud” not a leaf but often grouped with the leafy greens because of its similar nutrient values. The beautiful tree-like structure to the plant is appealing to children. Blanching it and giving it a sauce or a dip is one easy way of preparing broccoli.
The iron in legumes isn’t absorbed well by the human body. Consuming legumes (the pea family) along with Vitamin C gives you a better chance of absorbing the iron, and even if the system isn’t perfect for this one nutrient, it isn’t detrimental to have unabsorbed iron passing through. Many legume recipes include tomatoes and coloured peppers, which are high in Vitamin C or even having a glass of pure orange juice when you have broccoli in your meal is another easy way to achieve this balance.
Here are some recipes which include broccoli:
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
I liken a good warm bowl of broccoli soup to curling up in a warm blanket by a fire and getting cozy. It’s just plain old comfort food, simple as that.
· 5 tablespoons of butter
· 1/2 cup tapioca flour
· 3 cups homemade chicken stock, that is hot, or 2 cups stock and 1 cup dry white wine
· 1 cup of cream, or whole milk
· 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
· 2 teaspoons sea salt
· 1 1/2 teaspoons tarragon
· 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
· 1 large onion cut in half
· 3 cloves garlic, cut in half
· 6-8 cups of broccoli, florets and stalks chopped into small pieces(3-4 stalks)
· 4 cups extra sharp cheddar, plus extra to use as a garnish (or a mixture of mild and sharp cheddar)
1. Add the butter to a large chef’s pan over medium high heat until melted.
2. Add the flour and stir with a whisk for a few minutes. Once it’s well incorporated slowly whisk in 1 cup of hot broth at a time, adding the wine last if you are using it. Whisk until smooth and all the liquid has been added.
3. Turn up the heat, bring to a boil. Add the onion halves and garlic pieces and cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cream, Dijon, tarragon, salt and nutmeg.
4. Meanwhile in another pot steam the broccoli until tender. While the broccoli is steaming, shred the cheese. Remove onion and garlic pieces from the soup base and add the broccoli. Take about 1/3 of the mixture and blend it in a food processor or blender. Return to the pot and add 4 cups of cheese. Stir to melt the cheese. Add extra cheese to individual bowls.
· 1 – 1 1/2 pounds fresh organic broccoli, lightly steamed and chopped
· 2 cups cultured sour cream
· 2 cups grated New Zealand Cheddar
· 2-3 pastured eggs
· 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
· 1 teaspoon paprika
· 1 teaspoon dried basil
· 1 teaspoon dried oregano
· Sea salt and black pepper to taste
· 1/2 -1 cup sautéed sliced mushrooms (optional)
· Juice of half a lemon (optional)
Several splashes of fish sauce (optional)
1. Butter a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Mix together the broccoli, sour cream, cheddar, eggs, garlic, paprika, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and if using the mushrooms, fish sauce and lemon juice.
3. Place the mixture in the casserole dish. Bake 30 minutes.
Nourishing Broccoli Salad
· 2 heads of broccoli, stem peeled and cut into small pieces, as well as florets cut into small pieces, blanched in boiling water for 3 minutes, drained and rinsed under cold water until steam has dissipated.
· 1/2 a red onion, sliced thin
· 2-4 scallions, thinly sliced
· 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, cut into small slivers
· 8 pieces of bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
· 1 cup sour cream
· 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
· 3 Tbsp. olive oil
· 2 Tbsp. raw apple cider vinegar
· 2 garlic cloves minced
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
· Salt and pepper to taste
1. Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
2. Mix all salad ingredients together and toss with the dressing. Let sit for 30 minutes for flavors to meld together.
3. Enjoy at room temperature or chilled. This salad can be prepared up to a day in advance.
4. Don’t forget to take this to the next picnic you are headed to this summer!!
· 3 cups finely shredded, raw or cooked vegetables (I used a mixture of
· broccoli, carrot, cabbage and cauliflower)
· 4 cups finely ground, cooked chicken or turkey
· 4 cups breadcrumbs or cooked rice, or ½ cup coconut flour
· 3 Tbs nutritional yeast or 2 cups shredded cheese, if not dairy-free
· 6 eggs, beaten, egg replacer or 1½ cups leftover mashed potatoes
· 1 tsp garlic granules or powder
· 1 tsp salt
· 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
· 1/2 tsp onion powder
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment
paper or a silpat and set aside.
2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well
combined. Add some extra breadcrumbs if the mixture is too wet, or add
an extra egg if the mixture is too dry to stick together.
3. Shape the mixture into patties. I used a 2-ounce cookie scoop to make it
quick and uniform. Place on the cookie sheet.
4. Bake for 15 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Serve with ranch
dressing, carrot sticks & celery sticks.
To freeze, place the patties in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze until solid, then transfer to a zip-top bag or container. They freeze well for up to a month.
Broccoli and Potato Frittata
Frittatas are a wonderfully quick way to prepare a hot and nutritious dish out of minimal ingredients. When I found myself with a bit of leftover broccoli and leftover fried potatoes, frittata seemed the perfect dish.
· Leftover fried potatoes
· Leftover steamed broccoli
· 3 or 4 eggs
· 1 cup milk, water or ½ milk, ½ water
· Optional addition: Up to 2 cups shredded cheese
· Healthy oil for cooking
1. Turn your broiler on. In a skillet, over medium heat, warm the potatoes and broccoli in a bit of oil. Meanwhile combine the eggs and milk until the eggs are well beaten.
2. When the potatoes and broccoli are warm add a little additional fat and then position them so they cover the bottom.
3. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Use a knife to wiggle the eggs in to allow the eggs to spread evenly.
4. Allow to cook undisturbed for a few minutes so the bottom will begin to set up. Then using your spatula go around the edges of the egg and lift it slightly allowing the uncooked parts to run under the lifted part. Continue to do this until the egg is mostly set.
5. Then carefully move the egg dish under the broiler. This will allow the top of the eggs to finish cooking. It only takes a few minutes so keep a close eye on it. The eggs will puff up and be a gorgeous tan when done. Remove from oven.
6. Cut in wedges and serve. This is delicious topped with fresh sour cream.
Gluten-Free Broccoli Cheese Soup
· 8 TBL butter (from grassfed cows)
· 1 organic onion, diced
· 2 organic carrots, diced
· 2 ribs organic celery, diced
· 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed, diced
· 8 cups of organic broccoli florets and stalks chopped into small pieces(4-5 stalks)
· Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
· ¼ tsp white pepper
· 2 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock/broth
· 1 cup dry white wine (or additional cup stock)
· 1 cup of raw cream or crème fraiche (from grass-fed cows)
· 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
· 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
· 3 cups extra sharp grass fed cheddar
1. Add the butter to a large stock pot over medium high heat until melted. Add onions, carrots and celery and sauté until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until f ragrant, about 2 minutes.
2. Add broccoli and stir to coat well with butter. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add broth and optional wine. Turn up the heat, bring to a low boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook covered (with lid on) until broccoli pieces are soft (roughly about 15 minutes).
4. Remove from heat. With an immersion/stick blender, puree soup to desired consistency, or process in a regular blender, in batches, taking care not to burn yourself . Return to pot, off heat, stir in cream, dijon, nutmeg and cheese. Stir to combine and melt cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings.
5. If soup needs to be reheated, reheat slowly and do not allow it to come to a boil. Serve immediately.
On GAPS? If you use creme fraiche and cheddar cheese, this soup is GAPS friendly, as long as you tolerate dairy. Double check the ingredients on your dijon mustard to make sure it’s GAPS legal, or simply omit.
Vegetarian? Just sub veggie broth for the chicken broth.
Basic Stir Fry
Serves 2 and then some depending on how many vegetables you use (leftovers!!)
· 1/2 cup quality stir fry beef
· A truck load of chopped up veg Including things like:
• bok choy
• green beans