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What's Up with the Cruciferae?

In March of 1990, then- President Bush declared:

"I do not like broccoli and I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it and I'm the President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli."

In one fell swoop, our leader gave ammunition to all those kids (big and small) out there who don't want to eat their broccoli and other cruciferous veggies.   Unfortunate! 

Why are certain vegetables labeled "cruciferous"?   The reason for the name, which means "cross bearing", is that the flowers have four petals, 1/2 to 1 inch long, forming a cross.  If any vegetable group was to be given a religious symbol, this one is a prime candidate.

Included in this group are all the cabbages including Chinese cabbage or bok choy (pak-choi), kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi.  Other plants include mustard greens, turnips, rutabagas, watercress and radishes.

What do these plants have in common aside from their unique flower?  For one thing, they are rather strong tasting.   Children, whose taste buds, especially the "bitter" sensors, are much more sensitive than adults', often have a problem learning to like them.

Another thing they have in common is that they all offer tremendous health benefits.   According to research, these plants have phyto-chemicals that fight cancers of many types.  They also provide protection for the heart and blood vessels, guarding against stroke.  In fact, there may not be any whole class of veggies that has so much going for it.

In his article about avoiding breast cancer, Dr. Weil says:

"Eat cabbage with some regularity. It contains compounds which may block estrogen surges from other sources, such as environmental pollutants. Compounds in broccoli, kale, and collard greens -- all cruciferous vegetables -- are also good."

In Jean Carper's column from USA Weekend for some exciting news on cruciferous veggies, she states:

"The people who eat the most cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables have less cancer-- especially colon, stomach and breast cancer-- than other people.  One famous study at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that men who ate cabbage once a week had 66 percent less colon cancer than men who never ate it. Only a couple of tablespoons of cooked cabbage a day reduced the risk of stomach cancer in China's Heilong-jiang province. Lung cancer patients who ate the most fruits and vegetables, especially broccoli, survived a year and a half longer than those who skimped on produce, according to University of Hawaii research."

She further warns that while frozen cruciferae retain their healthful properties, canned ones, such as sauerkraut, do not. As to broccoli, she writes:

"Broccoli is packed with anti-cancer antioxidants: vitamin C, beta carotene, lutein, glutathione and quercetin. It also tops all other foods for chromium content.  Almost nobody gets enough chromium, a trace mineral that regulates insulin and helps to normalize blood sugar."

Read other interesting facts in her column; at the end are three interesting recipes using cruciferae.

In a report published in Third Age, Harvard researchers concluded that people who ate 5 to 6 servings of fruits and vegetables had a 31 percent reduction in the chance of stroke caused by a blood clot to the brain.  Especially useful were the cruciferae:

"They say the lowest risks of ischemic stroke are linked to cruciferous vegetables -- those in the cabbage family such as bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards and cauliflower -- green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and citrus juice."

You owe it to yourself and your family to find and use several recipes that include these powerhouse veggies.  If the only way they'll eat them is with liberal amounts of butter, sugar, salt, cream and/or cheese sauce, maybe you should go for it!  In addition try Broccoli-Cabbage Slaw, tangy Broccoli Stem Pickled Pennies, tasty Broccoli with Garlic,  creamy and sweet Broccoli Salad, delicately flavored Lemon-Sauced Brussels Sprouts,  our unusual  Green 'n Garlic Omelet, and Chef Paul's Cauliflower in Garlic Sauce for starts.   Add chopped radishes to Creamy Potato Salad Plus.   Or serve our quick One-Dish Corned Beef and Cabbage Boil.

Try for at least 1 small serving a day of a cruciferous veggie.  Not hard to do when you include a dab of leftovers; try adding some of yesterday's broccoli, cauliflower or brussels sprouts to our Garden Salad Plate or your favorite tossed salad, or throw in a bit of fresh watercress or thinly sliced radish.  Toss some crispy-cooked broccoli or cauliflower, or thinly sliced bok choy, to a stir fry just as it finishes cooking.  Add some long, extremely thin shreds of raw cabbage to green salads for crunch.  Include a small, peeled and finely cubed turnip or a little sliced cabbage (not both) in homemade soups such as minestrone.  It's easier than you think to do the healthy thing!

The Sneaky Kitchen
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