Beautiful Brassicas

A beautiful red cabbage growing in the Lyttleton veg patch.

A beautiful red cabbage growing in the Lyttleton veg patch.

Brassicas such as cauliflower and broccoli are an intermediate plant to grow in your veggie garden. They require a bit of love, attention, time and loads of nutrition so be patient! Cauliflower heads have a reputation for separating before you get a chance to harvest them. Pegging them closed using the outer leaves helps with this issue. Make sure you give them plenty of space to grow and feed the soil with loads of compost and manure before planting.

There are loads of easier brassicas to grow: sprouting broccolis (raab varieties) are fantastic as they provide a long, continuous “cut-and-come-again” harvest. We grow them here at Lyttleton Gardens and they are easy to sow direct into the soil throughout the cooler months. All parts of the plant are delicious, think of it as a constant supply of slightly mustardy broccolini.

You may want to plant some land cress near your brassicas as the white butterfly tends to lay its eggs in it. The larvae cannot tolerate the enzymes in land cress and this breaks its lifecycle. It’s also a good idea to interplant them with different smelling and looking leaves and herbs to confuse pests. Keep an eye on caterpillars as they love the sulphur-rich leaves. Best is to pick them off and feed them to the ducks or chooks.

Many vegetables are huddled under the Brassica family umbrella. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, kale, radishes, mustard greens, daikon, turnip, watercress and horseradish, yum, to name a few.

Brassicas can endure the cold of winter characteristically producing abundant leafy growth throughout the season. Brassicas cultivate inner warmth because of this quality and are a beautiful seasonal inclusion in winter meals.

Brassicas are known scientifically and nutritionally for the benefits of their organic sulphurcontent, their antioxidant activity, protection from certain cancers, their effect on hormones and the thyroid gland. They have been used traditionally for their ease of growing, their nutrition and use in first aid. They are a good source of fibre, Vitamin C (when raw), Vitamin A and minerals like calcium, iron and potassium.

Brassicas are rich in organic sulphur compounds. This creates it’s characteristic smell when you pick a stem off a broccoli head or chop up a cabbage ready for making sauerkraut. These sulfur compounds benefit us broadly because sulfur is an essential mineral in the make up of our physical bodies. The microscope has been focusing recently on how these sulfuric compounds increase the body’s inner antioxidant production, protecting you from environmental and emotional stress, toxin exposure and the effects of oxidation. This is important in the current age. In a simplified sum up Sulphur reduces inflammation, is essential for the body’s detoxification processes and things like producing insulin and having strong and healthy hair.

Brassicas (especially broccoli sprouts) get alot of attention for their Glucosinolate content also, another sulphur compound which when chopped or chewed changes into multiple other nutritionally active compounds, one of which is under the spotlight at the moment Sulforaphane (an isothiocyanate). Sulforaphane is being recognised for it’s cancer protective properties, inhibiting cancer growth and increasing the body’s own targeted defences toward cancer growth. Lets zoom out from the microscope for a moment, to what we can see with our eyes! The wonder of nature is that all these magnificent and active components are wrapped in a whole nutritious bundle like broccoli, kale and radishes.

Brassicas are helpful for hormone balance. They assist the breakdown of eostrogen and it’s clearance from the body via the liver, and when used medicinally for this purpose can assist with conditions associated with oestrogen excess.

Raw brassicas have a goitrogenic effect in the body, slowing the uptake of iodine by the thyroid which reduces thyroid hormone production. This is not helpful if you have a thyroid condition such as hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s disease. It can sometimes be helpful for those with hyperthyroidism where there is iodine excess, it is very important to get assistance from your medical practitioner for the use of brassicas medicinally. It is advised that those with thyroid conditions cook, steam, blanch and bake their brassicas to inactivate the goitrogenic effect.

The friendly brassica Cabbage has been used traditionally in first aid for many an age. The leaves can be used as a helpful compress for sores and ulcers aswell as pain relief for headaches, mastitis and for new mums breastfeeding. The large leaves are simply crushed a little and held on the sore part of the body for 10-20mins, they can be held in place by clothing or wraps and are best accompanied with rest. The leaves reduce swelling and ease pain.

Brassicas provide a wealth of good nutrition and medicinal help, as well as great seasonal merit, warming you over these coming autumn and winter months in the mountains.

red mustard is a delicious brassica that is easy to grow

red mustard is a delicious brassica that is easy to grow