• Nicola Zaina

Something Green Part 2 - Beautiful Brassicas

Updated: Jun 26, 2019

Following on from Something Green, the importance and abundance of green vegetables. I would like to introduce you to The Brassica Family, also known as cruciferous vegetables, you may already be familiar with some of them.

Besides all the good amounts of minerals they contain they also contain dithiolthiones and indoles a group of compounds that have anti-oxidant properties and are cancer preventing by helping boost DNA repair. Rich in sulphur they can cause a bit of flatulence so go slowly if this is the case.

Find one brassica you like and one you haven’t tried and commit to eating them during the next week. Most grow well in winter so you may be finding a limited selection in summer. I like to keep my vegetables simple the less I do to them the more I can enjoy their unique flavour. Also lightly cooking or eating them raw ensures optimal nutrient intake. But if you are a vegetable virgin you may need to spice them up or add them into stir fries, stews or vegetable curries.


Kale is king of the family although a “headless” member. It is enjoying being in the spot light at the moment because of it’s many health benefits. Easy to grow and easily available in shops it was unknown a few years ago. Now you can find it in smoothies, salads and even as a kale chip! Some people find the taste strong but in winter it has a milder flavour and can be more tender. There are many ways of preparing it, in summer I love adding it as a salad base.

Recipe idea: Strip the leaves off the central stem, chop the leaves up finely. Add a little sea salt, olive oil and lemon juice. Get your hands into the bowl and massage the kale, it will wilt and soften up. Having this as a salad base with something like baby spinach makes a salad a bit more substantial.


Broccoli has always been a popular choice. Lightly cooked and maintaining the vivid green is the way to maximise it’s nutrients. Containing lutein and zeaxanthin, plant pigments that help to filter out the damaging blue light, so it is really good for anyone spending time in front of a screen.

Recipe idea: simply steamed until just done but still firm and brilliantly green, add a little natural salt and olive oil.

Broccoli leaves

This is a new one for me I came across them in Woolworths and was happy to see how cheap they were. They have a more subtle flavour than kale and are a delicious alternative to swiss chard. I prepare it the same way I do cooked kale.

Recipe Idea: strip the leaves off the central stem, chop up the leaves, sauté with a little olive oil, once wilted add sea salt, a little crushed garlic and/or chopped chilli.

Sprouting broccoli

This is also known as broccoli rabe or rapini in Italian cook books. This is the special relative, a little pricey but nice for special occasions. Some find the flavour bitter but to me the stem is similar to asparagus in flavour. The bitter flavour is good for us and the one we are least likely to naturally like.

Recipe Idea: best steamed until just done then add olive oil, lemon juice and fresh ground black pepper. Any left over is delicious dipped into good quality mayonnaise or chopped up into a salad.

Brussel Sprouts

They need a PR makeover, I like to call them baby cabbage. Don’t overcook them otherwise there flavour is strong and unpleasant which is why the tend to be unpopular.

Recipe Idea: Steamed until just done, salt, olive oil, a little chilli and chopped anchovy, toss and serve. I like to use any left over chopped up and added to chopped fried bacon which makes a great base for a fried egg.


This is a big family, unfortunately we don’t get many varieties here. Which is a shame, but if you do find different types try them. Regular cabbage is brilliant to have as naturally fermented sauerkraut or raw as coleslaw. Chinese cabage is great in stir-fries.

Recipe Idea: For coleslaw, forget about cheap nasty salad dressing for an Asian twist finely chop the cabbage add chopped radish and grated carrot. Add a a little salt, macadamia oil and lime or lemon juice. Massage until softened like the kale. Add freshly grated ginger and chopped coriander. (You can use any good quality oil)


Ok I know it is white and not green but it is part of this family. This winter I found purple cauliflower which looks amazing. Once forgotten it is having a Banting revival, it is now used as mash, rice and anything else. Because of it’s mild flavour it needs to be dressed up.

Recipe Idea: I love it as a warm salad. Steam until just done, pour over a lemon and olive oil dressing and add chopped black olives and fresh parsley. You will never underestimate it again.

Bok choy and Tatsoi

These are some of the better known Asian brassicas and are perfect for adding flavour and greens to a stir fry. Chop them and add them at the end until they just wilt down. When I can’t find them whole I take a bag of Asian green salad mix and just chop it into a Thai green curry just before serving so it is still crunchy and raw.

If you were wandering what to have with dinner tonight try out one of the beautiful brassicas and treat it as the star of the meal rather than the side act.

PS The sulphur that they contain may cause flatulence. If you have an under active thyroid go slow and always have all brassicas cooked.

Health is about the food you eat, and the way you move your body.
It's about stilling the mind and connecting to others and nature.
Health is about living a meaningful life that brings you joy & fulfilment.
Find ways to be healthy every day, have fun & don't get stressed or obsess about it.
Health may not look the same for everyone but being healthy is worth striving for.
Nicola Zaina     
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