They are all members of the Brassicaceae or mustard family of plants. They are also known as cruciferous vegetables because their flowers have four petals that resemble a crucifix or cross (from the Latin, cruciferae). These plants contain sulfur compounds, called glucosinolates, which when broken down (by your gut bacteria or plant enzymes) can have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer effects. Mustard greens contain about twice as many glucosinolates as kale.
Fun fact: Did you know that the spicy chemicals in mustard that make your nose burn aren’t actually created in the plant until you take a bite out of it? When you bite into or chop up the leaves of cruciferous plants the glucosinolates get converted to other spicy or bitter chemicals! You’ve released enzymes in the plant cell that allowed this reaction to happen.
In early spring, it can be difficult to find much to eat in the garden. However, often plants have more edible parts than we realize. Some plants, like kale, collards, bok choy, turnips, and Brussels sprouts are biennials, meaning they don’t produce flowers and seeds until their second year of life. This can be advantageous for the gardener who leaves these plants in the garden to overwinter, as they will be rewarded with new leaves in the spring, accompanied by tender flower stalks with a fresh, sweet flavor.
A simple dish can be made with an assortment of leaves and flower stalks from these plants, which when harvested early in the season, will remain tasty. However, with time and increasing temperatures, leaves will turn more bitter and flower stalks may get tougher.
Fresh, tender leaves and flower stalks can be steamed and prepared in any way you like. For an Asian influence, the addition of toasted sesame oil with some salt and garlic makes a simple, tasty side dish. Below, I also added some frozen vegetable dumplings. Store-bought, yes, but still yummy!
It’s amazing how limited our diets can be, given the wide variety of edible plants and plant parts. For instance, even the leaves of Brussels sprouts are edible and like a more tender version of collards. Who knew?
In today’s share there will be an option to try snake gourd, which tastes kind of like green bean and squash. Here’s an idea for a recipe to cook it, which we like! This recipe is based off this Vahchef recipe.
1-2 snake gourds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
chili powder to taste
1 T ghee (or oil of choice)
salt to taste
yogurt (we used a non-dairy coconut-based yogurt)
Cut snake gourd into roughly 1/2” or smaller round slices. Heat pan with ghee and add mustard and cumin seeds once pan is hot. Saute seeds for about a minute and then add turmeric, chili powder, and salt. Stir to mix and then add snake gourd. Cook about 15-20 minutes on medium heat or until tender. Turn off heat then add yogurt and mix. Ready to eat!
This week was the first week for slicing tomatoes and there are many more ripening on the vine. Eggplant and bottle gourd started coming in last week and ground cherries are producing more heavily now. We’ve also been growing some other unique “Indian veggies” that are commonly found in Indian cooking.
Thai Bottle Gourd
Snake Bean or Snake Gourd. This plant smells like peanut butter!
Cucumbers are a great hydrating fruit (almost 95% water) that contains Vitamin K, antioxidants, and minerals. Some research suggests they may also have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. They can also be used topically to improve skin condition.
This is the first week for potatoes and there are five different varieties we grew this year. Purple Sun, Satina, Adirondack Red, Strawberry Paw, and German Butterball. Potatoes aren’t just a delicious source of carbs; they contain Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin B6, and some fiber and magnesium if eaten with the skins! They also contain different antioxidants depending on the color of their skin. Although not a common cooking method for potatoes, steaming may be one of the healthier ways to cook a potato because it helps retain more nutrients, while boiling and baking can cause more nutrient losses.
Cut cucumbers, scallions, and dill into the size pieces you prefer. In a bowl, add salt and pepper to these ingredients. Drizzle with desired amount of olive oil, vinegar, and mustard to taste. Enjoy!
This “recipe” has no amounts because it can easily be customized to personal preferences and the ingredients you have on hand. Other dressing combinations and different oils and vinegars or lemon juice could also be used. The flavor develops more if left in fridge a few hours before eating, but it’s good to eat right away too!