If I were to ask you what your favorite member of the “Brassica” family was to eat, your first response might be: “What is a Brassica?"

Brassica is a group of closely related plants in the mustard family, of which there are more than 3,700 species. The Brassica family is also the feature of the Montana Harvest of the Month for September, a program that showcases Montana-grown foods in Montana schools, institutions and communities. There are several subcategories of Brassicas, which we know as cruciferous vegetables, that include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, Brussel sprouts and others.

Brassicas are very diverse and depending on the variety of Brassica, we eat different parts of the plant. For instance, cauliflower is a branched stem, broccoli is the flower buds and stems, kohlrabi the stem, cabbage the terminal leaf bud, and kale and bok choy the leaves.

Brassicas in general are excellent sources of vitamin C and good sources of potassium vitamin A, and vitamin B6. All are also rich in phytochemicals, meaning they are antioxidant-dense and help fight cancer and inflammation.

You can enjoy eating the different members of the Brassica family in many ways. Many are delicious served raw, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kohlrabi. Steaming is a great way to prepare some, such as cauliflower, broccoli and collards. Kale, Brussel sprouts, turnips and cauliflower are delicious when tossed with a little olive oil and seasoning and roasted in the oven. Of course, how can we forget cabbage that is fermented to make sauerkraut?

This soup features cabbage, a popular crop for Montana. There are around 400 varieties. Those varieties vary in shape, size and color, although you may be chiefly familiar with green, red or white. Along with cabbage, this hearty soup includes another member of the Brassica family, turnips. The addition of brown sugar and vinegar give this soup a special flavor that is different from others. A variety of healthy vegetables along with Italian sausage and kidney beans make this soup one that provides a broad range of nutrients. If desired instead of the Italian sausage called for in the recipe, you can use turkey kielbasa sausage sliced thinly. The soup freezes well, so make extra to enjoy later.

Cabbage Soup

(Servings: 6)

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced

8 oz. sweet or hot Italian sausage

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 carrots, cut in half and thinly sliced

1 rib celery, thinly sliced

½ turnip, cubed

1 teaspoon caraway seed

2 cups low-fat low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups chopped cabbage, red or green or a combination of

1 (14-oz.) can diced tomatoes

½ green or red bell pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 (15-oz) can white or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon white vinegar

¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Sauté the onion, garlic and sausage in the olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan until tender. Add the carrots, celery and turnip; sauté for several minutes or until tender. Add the caraway seeds and sauté for 1 minute. Add the broth, cabbage, tomatoes, bell pepper and brown sugar. Simmer, covered for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add the beans, vinegar, salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes or until heated through. Ladle into soup bowls. If desired, top with dollop of sour cream. Source: “Living Well, More Than A Cookbook,” National Extension Association of Family & Consumer Sciences.

For a change from the traditional coleslaw, try this salad variation using both red and green cabbage and adding apples to the mix. A flavorful dressing, made by combining a variety of ingredients including ginger, honey and mustard, gives a depth of flavor to the salad.

Gingered Cabbage Salad

(Servings: 6)

Ingredients:

2 2/3 cups red cabbage, shredded

1 1/3 cups green cabbage, shredded

1 cup apples, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled, minced

½ teaspoon honey

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon garlic, minced

1/3 cup dried cranberries

3 tablespoons sunflower seeds

Directions:

Cut cabbage into wedges and remove the core. Shred in a food processor or by hand and set shredded cabbage aside in a bowl. Core and peel apples; cut into wedges. Toss with lemon juice in a bowl to prevent browning. Whisk oil, vinegar, ginger, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper, until well combined. Add apples and lemon juice to the cabbage. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Add cranberries and toss again. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes before serving. If preparing more than 30 minutes before serving, refrigerate. Source: Harvest of the Month, developed by: Vermont FEED New School Cuisine Cookbook.

Cauliflower is one of the popular Brassicas and is gaining more in popularity all the time. One method to use in preparing them is oven roasting, which brings out the flavor and takes the place of meat for some.

Cauliflower Steaks

Ingredients:

Cauliflower

Desired seasonings such as salt-free seasoning blend for steak, jerk, taco, barbecue, chili powder, mustard, vinegar, tahini

Directions:

Choose a cauliflower with crisp outer leaves and densely packed florets. Pull off outer leaves and slice off stem to make a flat base. Trim two sides flat. Slice head lengthwise through the core into ¾ -to 1-inch thick slabs. Season slabs on both sides as desired, using above mentioned suggestions. Arrange slabs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or on a silicone baking mat. Roast 40–50 minutes at 400 degrees, flipping slabs halfway through. If desired, serve slabs steakhouse style with with a baked potato and big tossed salad. For extra oomph, drizzle with a favorite sauce. Source: “Forks Over Knives, Healthy Comfort Food,” Fall 2020.

For additional sources and information on the Montana Harvest of the Month program, visit www.montana.edu/mtharvestofthewmonth.

Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was a Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.

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