Newsletter # 10: Week of August 19th

Basket contents: Broccoli, kohlrabi, zucchinis, cucumbers, melon, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, choice of beets or potatoes, choice of eggplant or pepper, kale

Recipe of the week: Curried Potato Kale Galette

This week I want to introduce you to a close family of friends- the Brassicas!  You have already met on several occasions, but I think it’s worthwhile to take the time to get to know them just a little better, as they have been, and will continue to be a prominent part of our season together.

Who are the Brassicas?

All plants (and animals, at that) are classified into families close relatives, and the Brassicas (previously called the ‘Crucifers’ because of their cross-shaped flowers) are one such family.  This family includes such treats as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, turnips, radishes, rutabaga, Brussel sprouts.

Amazingly, many of these diverse plants originated from the same historic mother-plant, but have been selected over time by farmers to develop different parts of the plant.  For example, broccoli has been selected to produce a large head of flower buds- the part of the plant we now eat.  Kohlrabi started from the same mother-plant, but was instead selected to grow an enlarged stem, which is the bulbous part of the plant we are now familiar with.  Brussel sprouts, too, came from the same mother-plant, but has been selected instead to grow little sprouts above each leaf, giving us the tight and tender Brussel sprouts we know today.  I love these examples of the fertile relationship between our plant crops and our farming ancestors who have tended them.

Brassicas as a food-medicine

The Brassicas have been getting a lot of attention from the medical community in recent years, as studies have repeatedly shown them to contribute to the fight against cancer due to a molecule they contain which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.  They also provide high amounts of vitamin C, as well as soluble fiber.  To get the most of these nutrients, steaming and sautéing is the most effective way to cook these veggies- or you can just eat them raw!

Some people seem to have a hard time eating veggies from this family.  Apparently they may have a good excuse- some folks have genetic variations that cause Brassicas to taste either excessively bitter or tasteless.  That’s too bad for them, but it just means there will be more for the rest of us!

Brasssicas in the garden

Despite all of their virtues, Brassicas are among the most challenging crops to grow.  Preferring the cool and moderate temperatures of Northern and Western Europe, they grow best in the spring and fall.  And we are not the only ones who find them tasty- they are preyed upon by a huge range of pests, and so we farmers are constantly on the defensive.  In organic production, our main allies are our huge nets (1500ft2 each), which act as a physical barrier, blocking the moths, midges and flea beetles from chomping down on their tender leaves.  When we out-plant our nets, we verify caterpillar levels each 3-4 days, and if their numbers surpass a threshold, we’ll cover the leaves with a bacteria, Bt, which acts as a natural poison to a very specific- and evil- category of pests- the defoliating caterpillars.

All this to say, we are very pleased to be able to offer you such nice Brassicas this week: kale, broccoli and kohlrabi.  We hope reading this will help you enjoy them in a new way!