Fall Harvest: Kohlrabi

October 8, 2013 at 10:52 AM | Posted in vegetables | Leave a comment
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Kohlrabi (late fall) comes into season by the end of fall, but stays at its sweet best into winter.

Kohlrabi stem with leaves

Kohlrabi stem with leaves

Kohlrabi (German turnip) (Brassica oleracea Gongylodes group) (Olkopi in Assamese and Bengali) is a perennial vegetable, and is a low, stout cultivar of cabbage. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw as well as cooked.

 

 

Kohlrabi has been created by artificial selection for lateral meristem growth (a swollen, nearly spherical shape); its origin in nature is the same as that of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts: they are all bred from, and are the same species as the wild cabbage plant (Brassica oleracea).
The taste and texture of kohlrabi are similar to those of a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter, with a higher ratio of flesh to skin. The young stem in particular can be as crisp and juicy as an apple, although much less sweet.

A basket of kohlrabi
Except for the Gigante cultivar, spring-grown kohlrabi much over 5 cm in size tend to be woody, as do full-grown kohlrabi much over perhaps 10 cm in size; the Gigante cultivar can achieve great size while remaining of good eating quality. The plant matures in 55–60 days after sowing. Approximate weight is 150 g and has good standing ability for up to 30 days after maturity.
There are several varieties commonly available, including White Vienna, Purple Vienna, Grand Duke, Gigante (also known as “Superschmelz”), Purple Danube, and White Danube. Coloration of the purple types is superficial: the edible parts are all pale yellow. The leafy greens can also be eaten.

 

 

A basket of kohlrabi

A basket of kohlrabi

Kohlrabi stems are surrounded by two distinct fibrous layers that do not soften appreciably when cooked. These layers are generally peeled away prior to cooking or serving raw, with the result that the stems often provide a smaller amount of food than one might assume from their intact appearance.
Kohlrabi leaves are edible and can be used interchangeably with collard and kale.
Kohlrabi is an important part of the Kashmiri diet and one of the most commonly cooked foods. It is prepared with its leaves and served with a light gravy and eaten with rice.
Some varieties are grown as feed for cattle.

 

 

 

Fall Harvest: Cauliflower

September 26, 2013 at 11:19 AM | Posted in vegetables | 4 Comments
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Cauliflower

Cauliflower

 

Cauliflower may be grown, harvested, and sold year-round, but it is by nature a cool weather crop and at its best in fall and winter and into early spring.

 

Cauliflower is one of several vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea, in the family Brassicaceae. It is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. Typically, only the head (the white curd) is eaten. The cauliflower head is composed of a white inflorescence meristem. Cauliflower heads resemble those in broccoli, which differs in having flower buds.
Its name is from Latin caulis (cabbage) and flower,. Brassica oleracea also includes cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, and collard greens, though they are of different cultivar groups.
For such a highly modified plant, cauliflower has a long history. François Pierre La Varenne employed chouxfleurs in Le cuisinier françois. They were introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century, and are featured in Olivier de Serres‘ Théâtre de l’agriculture (1600), as cauli-fiori “as the Italians call it, which are still rather rare in France; they hold an honorable place in the garden because of their delicacy”, but they did not commonly appear on grand tables until the time of Louis XIV.

 

 

There are four major groups of cauliflower.
* Italian
Diverse in appearance, and biennial and annual in type, this group includes white, Romanesco, various green, purple, brown and yellow cultivars. This type is the ancestral form from which the others were derived.
* Northwest European biennial
Used in Europe for winter and early spring harvest, this was developed in France in the 19th century, and includes the old cultivars Roscoff and Angers.
* Northern European annuals
Used in Europe and North America for summer and fall harvest, it was developed in Germany in the 18th century, and includes the old cultivars Erfurt and Snowball.
* Asian
A tropical cauliflower used in China and India, it was developed in India during the 19th century from the now-abandoned Cornish type,[6] and includes old varieties Early Patna and Early Benaras.

 

 

There are hundreds of historic and current commercial varieties used around the world. A comprehensive list of about 80 North American varieties is maintained at North Carolina State University.
Colors:
* White
White cauliflower is the most common colour of cauliflower.
* Orange
Orange cauliflower (B. oleracea L. var. botrytis) contains 25% more vitamin A than white varieties. This trait came from a natural mutant found in a cauliflower field in Canada. Cultivars include ‘Cheddar’ and ‘Orange Bouquet’.
* Green
Green cauliflower, of the B. oleracea botrytis group, is sometimes called broccoflower. It is available both with the normal curd shape and a variant spiky curd called Romanesco broccoli. Both types have been commercially available in the U.S. and Europe since the early 1990s. Green-curded varieties include ‘Alverda’, ‘Green Goddess’ and ‘Vorda’. Romanesco varieties include ‘Minaret’ and ‘Veronica’.
* Purple
The purple colour in this cauliflower is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanins, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine. Varieties include ‘Graffiti’ and ‘Purple Cape’. In Great Britain and southern Italy, a broccoli with tiny flower buds is sold as a vegetable under the name “purple cauliflower”. It is not the same as standard cauliflower with a purple curd.

 

 

Cauliflower is low in fat, low in carbohydrates but high in dietary fiber, folate, water, and vitamin C, possessing a high nutritional density.
Cauliflower contains several phytochemicals, common in the cabbage family, that may be beneficial to human health.
8 Sulforaphane, a compound released when cauliflower is chopped or chewed, may protect against cancer.
* Other glucosinolates
* Carotenoids
* Indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that enhances DNA repair, and acts as an estrogen antagonist, slowing the growth of cancer cells.
Boiling reduces the levels of these compounds, with losses of 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 75% after thirty minutes. However, other preparation methods, such as steaming, microwaving, and stir frying, have no significant effect on the compounds.
A high intake of cauliflower has been associated with reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

 

 

Aloo gobi, an Indian dish prepared with cauliflower and potato

Aloo gobi, an Indian dish prepared with cauliflower and potato

Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed, or eaten raw. Steaming or microwaving better preserves anticancer compounds than boiling. When cooking, the outer leaves and thick stalks are removed, leaving only the florets. The leaves are also edible, but are most often discarded. The florets should be broken into similar-sized pieces so they are cooked evenly. After eight minutes of steaming, or five minutes of boiling, the florets should be soft, but not mushy (depending on size). Stirring while cooking can break the florets into smaller, uneven pieces.
Low carbohydrate dieters can use cauliflower as a reasonable substitute for potatoes or rice; while they can produce a similar texture, or mouth feel, they lack the starch of the originals.

 

Fall Harvest: Cabbage

September 25, 2013 at 9:50 AM | Posted in vegetables | 1 Comment
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Cabbage and its cross section

Cabbage is bright and crisp when raw and mellows and sweetens the longer it’s cooked. The cooler the weather when it’s harvested, the sweeter it tends to taste (this effect is called “frost kissed”).

 

 
Cabbage (Brassica oleracea or variants) is a leafy green biennial plant, grown as an annual vegetable crop for its dense-leaved heads. Closely related to other cole crops, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, it descends from B. oleracea var. oleracea, a wild field cabbage. Cabbage heads generally range from 1 to 8 pounds (0.5 to 4 kg), and can be green, purple and white. Smooth-leafed firm-headed green cabbages are the most common, with smooth-leafed red and crinkle-leafed savoy cabbages of both colors seen more rarely.
It is difficult to trace the exact history of cabbage, but it was most likely domesticated somewhere in Europe before 1000 BC. By the Middle Ages, it was a prominent part of European cuisine, although savoys were not developed until the 16th century. Cabbage heads are generally picked during the first year of the plants’ life cycles, but those intended for seed are allowed to grow a second year, and must be kept separated from other cole crops to prevent cross pollination. Cabbage is prone to several nutrient deficiencies, as well as multiple pests, bacteria and fungal diseases.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that world production of cabbage and other brassicas for calendar year 2011 was almost 69 million metric tons (68 million long tons; 75 million short tons). Almost half of these crops were grown in China, although Chinese cabbage is the most popular form of the vegetable in that country. Cabbages are prepared in many different ways for eating, although pickling, in dishes such as sauerkraut, is the most popular. Cabbage is a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, and fiber. Contaminated cabbage has been linked to cases of food-borne illness in humans.

 

 

Cabbage seedlings have a thin taproot and cordate (heart-shaped) cotyledons. The first leaves produced are ovate (egg-shaped) with a lobed petiole. Plants are 40–60 cm (16–24 in) tall in their first year at the mature vegetative stage, and 1.5–2.0 m (4.9–6.6 ft) tall when flowering in the second year. Heads average between 1 and 8 pounds (0.5 and 4 kg), with earlier varieties producing smaller heads. Most cabbages have thick, alternating leaves, with margins that range from wavy or lobed to highly dissected; some varieties have a waxy bloom on the leaves. Plants have root systems that are fibrous and shallow. About 90 percent of the root mass is in the upper 20–30 cm (8–12 in) of soil, although some lateral roots can penetrate up to 2 m (6.6 ft) deep.
The inflorescence is an unbranched and indeterminate terminal raceme measuring 50–100 cm (20–40 in) tall, with flowers that are yellow or white. Each flower has four petals set in a perpendicular pattern, as well as four sepals, six stamens, and a superior ovary that is two-celled and contains a single stigma and style. Two of the six stamens have shorter filaments. The fruit is a silique that opens at maturity through dehiscence to reveal brown or black seeds that are small and round in shape. Self-pollination is impossible, and plants are cross-pollinated by insects. The initial leaves form a rosette shape comprising 7 to 15 leaves, each measuring 25–35 cm (10–14 in) by 20–30 cm (8–12 in); after this, leaves with shorter petioles develop and heads form through the leaves cupping inward.
Many shapes, colors and leaf textures are found in various cabbage varieties. Leaf types are generally divided between crinkled-leaf, loose-head savoys and smooth-leaf firm-head cabbages, while the color spectrum includes white and a range of greens and purples. Oblate, round and pointed shapes are found.
Cabbage has been selectively bred for head weight and morphological characteristics, frost hardiness, fast growth and storage ability. The appearance of the cabbage head has been given importance in selective breeding, with varieties being chosen for shape, color, firmness and other physical characteristics. Breeding objectives are now focused on increasing resistance to various insects and diseases and improving the nutritional content of cabbage. Scientific research into the genetic modification of B. oleracea crops, including cabbage, has included European Union and United States explorations of greater insect and herbicide resistance. However, genetically modified B. oleracea crops are not currently used in commercial agriculture.

 

 

Green and purple cabbages

Green and purple cabbages

There are several cultivars of cabbage, each including many varieties:
* Savoy – Characterized by crimped or curly leaves, mild flavor and tender texture
* Spring Greens – Loose-headed, commonly sliced and steamed
* Green – Light to dark green, slightly pointed heads. This is the most commonly grown cultivar.
* Red – Smooth red leaves, often used for pickling or stewing
* White (also called Dutch) – Smooth, pale green leaves
Some sources only delineate three cultivars: savoy, red and white, with spring greens and green cabbage being subsumed into the latter.

 

 

Cabbage is used in many ways, ranging from eating raw and simple steaming to pickling, stewing, sauteing or braising. Pickling is one of the most popular ways of preserving cabbage, creating dishes such as sauerkraut and kimchee, although kimchee is more often made from Chinese cabbage (B. rapa). Savoy cabbages are usually used in salads, while smooth-leaf types are utilized for both fresh market sales and processing. Bean curd and cabbage is a staple of Chinese cooking, while the British dish bubble and squeak is made primarily with salt beef and boiled cabbage. Cabbage is used extensively in Polish cuisine. It is one of the main food crops, and sauerkraut is a frequent dish, as well as being used to stuff other dishes such as golabki (stuffed cabbage) and pierogi (filled pasta). Other eastern European countries, such as Hungary and Romania, also have traditional dishes that feature cabbage as a main ingredient. In India and Ethiopia, cabbage is often used in spicy salads and braises. In the United States, cabbage is used primarily for the production of coleslaw, followed by fresh market use and sauerkraut production. Cabbage consumption varies widely around the world, with the Russians eating the largest amount in Europe, at 20 kilograms (44 lb) per capita, while Belgians consume 4.7 kilograms (10 lb), the Dutch 4.0 kilograms (8.8 lb), Americans 3.9 kilograms (8.6 lb) and the Spaniards 1.9 kilograms (4.2 lb).
The characteristic flavor of cabbage is caused by glucosinolates, a class of sulfur-containing glucosides. Although found throughout the plant, these compounds are concentrated in the highest quantities in the seeds; lesser quantities are found in young vegetative tissue, and they decrease as the tissue ages. Cooked cabbage is often criticized for its pungent, unpleasant odor and taste. These develop when cabbage is overcooked and a hydrogen sulfide gas is produced.

 

 

White cabbage

White cabbage

Cabbage is a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C and fiber. It is a cruciferous vegetable, and has been shown to reduce the risk of some cancers, especially those in the colorectal group. This is possibly due to the glucosinolates found in cole crops, which serve as metabolic detoxicants, or due to the sulphoraphane content, also responsible for metabolic anti-carcinogenic activities. Purple cabbage also contains anthocyanins, which in other vegetables have been proven to have anti-carcinogenic properties. Along with other cole crops, cabbage is a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. Research suggests that boiling these vegetables reduces their anti-carcinogenic properties.

 

 

 

Fall Harvest: Broccoli

September 24, 2013 at 7:40 AM | Posted in vegetables | 1 Comment
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Broccoli

 

Broccoli can be grown year-round in temperate climates so we’ve forgotten it even has a season. It is more sweet, less bitter and sharp when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates.

 

Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family, whose large flower head is used as a vegetable. The word broccoli, from the Italian plural of broccolo, refers to “the flowering top of a cabbage”. Broccoli is usually boiled or steamed but may be eaten raw and has become popular as a raw vegetable in hors d’œuvre trays. The leaves may also be eaten.
Broccoli is classified in the Italica cultivar group of the species Brassica oleracea. Broccoli has large flower heads, usually green in color, arranged in a tree-like structure on branches sprouting from a thick, edible stalk. The mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves. Broccoli most closely resembles cauliflower, which is a different cultivar group of the same species.
Broccoli is a result of careful breeding of cultivated leafy cole crops in the Northern Mediterranean in about the 6th century BC. Since the Roman Empire, broccoli has been considered a uniquely valuable food among Italians. Broccoli was brought to England from Antwerp in the mid-18th century by Peter Scheemakers. Broccoli was first introduced to the United States by Italian immigrants but did not become widely known there until the 1920s.

 
Broccoli is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber; it also contains multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties, such as diindolylmethane and small amounts of selenium. A single serving provides more than 30 mg of vitamin C and a half-cup provides 52 mg of vitamin C. The 3,3′-Diindolylmethane found in broccoli is a potent modulator of the innate immune response system with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activity. Broccoli also contains the compound glucoraphanin, which can be processed into an anti-cancer compound sulforaphane, though the benefits of broccoli are greatly reduced if the vegetable is boiled. Broccoli is also an excellent source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.
Boiling broccoli reduces the levels of suspected anti-carcinogenic compounds, such as sulforaphane, with losses of 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 77% after thirty minutes. However, other preparation methods such as steaming, microwaving, and stir frying had no significant effect on the compounds.
Broccoli has the highest levels of carotenoids in the brassica family. It is particularly rich in lutein and also provides a modest amount of beta-carotene.

 
There are three commonly grown types of broccoli. The most familiar is Calabrese broccoli, often referred to simply as “broccoli”, named after Calabria in Italy. It has large (10 to 20 cm) green heads and thick stalks. It is a cool season annual crop. Sprouting broccoli has a larger number of heads with many thin stalks. Purple cauliflower is a type of broccoli sold in southern Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. It has a head shaped like cauliflower, but consisting of tiny flower buds. It sometimes, but not always, has a purple cast to the tips of the flower buds.
Other cultivar groups of Brassica oleracea include cabbage (Capitata Group), cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli (Botrytis Group), kale and collard greens (Acephala Group), kohlrabi (Gongylodes Group), and Brussels sprouts (Gemmifera Group). Chinese broccoli (Alboglabra Group) is also a cultivar group of Brassica oleracea. Rapini, sometimes called “broccoli rabe” among other names, forms similar but smaller heads, and is actually a type of turnip (Brassica rapa). Broccolini or “Tender Stem Broccoli” is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli.

 

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