Shelly Barnes: Cruciferous vegetables in season in Tennessee

Shelly Barnes • Updated Nov 2, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Fall has arrived, the berries may be gone, but cruciferous vegetables are making a showing in late-season farmers markets and groceries. Now is the time to enjoy bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, kale and turnips.

These vegetables are rich in many key nutrients. They are a good source of dietary fiber and contain vitamins K, C and E, and folate, as well as minerals such as potassium and calcium. Beneficial compounds found in these foods, such as beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, also have health benefits.

Cruciferous vegetables have compounds that produce a sulfurous smell when cooking. Preparing, chewing and digesting these chemicals form other compounds that some studies suggest help protect against cancer. Because we do not know with certainty, it is best to eat these vegetables for all the nutrients they might have, rather than relying on specific nutrients in dietary supplements. 

Bok choy has been grown in China for centuries. The name means “white vegetable.” Both the dark green leaves and the white stalks are calcium-rich and edible. Boy choy is often stir-fried, but it can add a crunchy texture and fresh taste to salads. 

Broccoli is a concentrated source of nutrients, especially when cooked. To minimize losses of nutrients during the cooking process, try microwaving or steaming broccoli instead of boiling.

Cabbage is typically available in three types: pale green, purple-red and crinkle-textured savoy. Another common variety is Napa cabbage, also called Chinese cabbage. Most people eat cabbage either raw or cooked but today fermented cabbage (sauerkraut and Korean kimchi) is making a comeback. When cabbage is fermented, live microorganisms are produced that may have health benefits such as improved digestion. 

Kale is sometimes referred to as the king of vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting. Some studies also suggest that it is important for maintaining bone health in older adults. When purchasing kale, choose dark-colored bunches and avoid yellow or brown leaves.

Turnips come in a range of root shapes and colors. When you purchase roots with the dark green leaves attached, you get two nutritious vegetables in one. If have a lot of these on hand, try using turnip roots in place of potatoes and turnip greens in place of spinach or mustard greens.

Take advantage of fruits and vegetables in every season. Don’t miss the cruciferous vegetables. They are powerhouses of nutrients.  

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state and provides equal opportunities in all programming and employment. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.

For more information on this or other family and consumer sciences related topics, contact Shelly Barnes, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes may be reached atsbarnes@utk.edu or 615-444-9584.

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