At professional baseball games in Cleveland, Ohio, fans can watch an in-between-inning race—the Hot Dog Derby—with contestants being Ketchup, Mustard, and Onion. Fans can cheer on their favorites during this tongue-in-cheek race, secure in the knowledge that each of the runners will win approximately the same number of races throughout the season.
In other words, fans can celebrate this trio of in-demand condiments, even if they have a particular favorite.
This, of course, got us to thinking about broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower—and how, although it’s only human nature to have favorite foods, it’s fun and oh-so-appropriate to celebrate all three of these delicious cruciferous vegetables.
Farm-fresh cauliflower that’s regeneratively farmed at The Chef’s Garden comes in a dazzling array of colors and flavors, from the traditional to the unexpected—with the latter including mulberry cauliflower.
The mulberry variety offers up an earthy, green, sweet flavor and is crunchy when raw or pickled, and soft and tender when cooked. Hues range from a light violet to lavender and, when you look at a cross-section, it resembles the traditional white cauliflower if dyed in lilac. Cook it and it’s transformed into a blue-purple shade. Add a dash of vinegar on a delicious raw floret and you’ll get a brilliant magenta color. No matter how you use mulberry cauliflower in your creative dishes and menus, it adds a punch of unexpected visual appeal.
Farmer Lee Jones admires cauliflower for its sturdy character because it’s a robust veggie that—long after many other vegetables have been defeated by winter temperatures—doesn’t give up. In fact, freezing temperatures create cauliflower heads that are even more hearty and flavorful.
Farmer Lee admits that, as a kid, he didn’t appreciate how late in the season they’d harvest cauliflower (it was cold outside!), but he now appreciates how Mother Nature continues to provide incredibly flavorful fresh vegetables as temperatures plunge.
A couple of years ago, we provided a look at the health benefits of cauliflower and here’s an overview of what we shared. Cauliflower:
is incredibly versatile and vitamin rich
can help to prevent diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis
belongs on the list of powerhouse fruits and vegetables on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Aggregative Nutrient Density Index (ANDI)
provides plenty of vitamins—B1, B2, B3, B6, C, and K—along with folate, pantothenic acid, choline, fiber, omega-3 fats, biotin, manganese, and phosphorus
Not surprisingly in 2017, the Mayo Clinic named cauliflower as a “nutrition superstar.” We agree!
Over the past few years, veggie-based carbs have increasingly been replacing grain-based ones as diners appreciate the fresh taste and texture of vegetables that are presented in uniquely wonderful ways. Farmer Lee appreciates this trend and he’s sure that our farm’s cherished chefs will continue to push the limits when it comes to offering up outstanding vegetable-focused dishes that reduce or eliminate the use of traditional carbs.
It's not easy to harvest cauliflower—but it’s sure worth the time it takes. Our farm team may feel as though they’re playing a game of hide and seek as they hunt for the perfect cauliflower heads that we grow in long rows. This makes patience and persistence two of our secrets when harvesting the ideal head of cauliflower, one you can use to replace a grain-based carb or in any other way you choose.
Beauty of Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts
Then there’s our lovely broccoli that, at first bite, offers up sweet notes that are followed up by a mild cabbage flavor. Then there’s the visual appeal: our purple broccoli florets come in a surprising, eye-catching purple-green combo.
When considering the health benefits of broccoli, here are two angles. First, Health.com lists a multitude of benefits: this marvelous cruciferous vegetable helps to prevent cancer, offers heart protection, is linked to brain health, helps to keep bones strong, fights against inflammation, and is chockfull of nutrients and fiber. Plus, when we interviewed health and nutrition experts about eating the rainbow, broccoli was in their list of recommended foods.
Then there’s the power of purple foods. In our coverage of purple foods, we noted how a government report shares that almost 90 percent of Americans don’t eat enough purple produce—with veggies in this hue helping to fight disease, keep your heart healthy, reduce inflammation, and more. Purple produce can protect your memory, too, slowing the aging process.
Meanwhile, our fresh brussels sprouts are nutty and savory with our compact beauties offering up the delicious flavor of cabbage without any bitterness. In fact, our baby brussels, when harvested after a frost, have been compared to the grapes that form the basis of a fine ice wine.
How does that work, exactly? Well, when brussels sprouts are subjected to freezing temperatures, sugar levels go up—which enhances the flavor while eliminating the bitterness that people may associate with this cruciferous vegetable.
If you were on the farm on harvesting day, you’d see how we harvest stalks with a machete—stalks as thick as a grown man’s arm. We then take our brussels bounty to the barn where we remove them from the stalk in an environment that provides a bit more warmth and light. Yes, the finger work needed is meticulous—but. because out baby brussels sprouts are small, we don’t need to peel the outer leaves. They’re perfect, as is, with spotless flesh and splendid leaves.
But What About . . .
Cruciferous vegetables go above and beyond the delicious and nutritious trifecta of cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. So, we’re sure that some of you are cheering on cabbage, kale, kalettes, or kohlrabi as your personal cruciferous favorites—and that’s just fine.
Going back to our original analogy of the Cleveland baseball team’s Ketchup, Mustard, and Onion races: in 2018, the management decided to add a fourth runner. Some people hoped it would be relish while others cheered on the notion of mayo. Some had their fingers crossed for the addition of a vegan hot dog—while, in fact, the new racer is Bacon. (Our point: having more options is a real plus!)
As a side note, we’d originally planned to ask Farmer Lee to name his favorite cruciferous vegetable but then we remembered how hard it is for him to make up his mind with these questions. So, instead, we’ll just reiterate that it’s perfectly fine to celebrate them all.
As Science Direct points out, all of the cruciferous vegetables that we enjoy today came from a common ancestor: wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea), which was native to western Europe and the northern Mediterranean. Pliny the Elder, who was a Roman philosopher and naturalist of note (born in 23 or 24 A.C.E.), wrote about a vegetable in Natural History that sounds remarkably like today’s cauliflower (but may have been another offspring of wild cabbage) and so we know that people have celebrated this type of vegetable for thousands of years.
Here is Chef Jamie Simpson’s elegantly simple cauliflower recipe: Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Gruyere. Here’s his Seared Brussels Sprout Hash—and plenty more cruciferous vegetable recipes.
Regenerative Farming: The Chef’s Garden Difference
“Soil is a living, breathing organism just like we are, and you have to treat it as such. It needs food, air, and water to be able to be productive. And, if you really want it to be productive, you’ve got to give it rest. The same things we need. This process allows us to have far less competition from weeds. And, even more important for chefs, this is what allows us to eliminate the need for chemicals. Sure, we could do one quick till and then pour chemicals onto the land, but we’re never about minimum standards. We want to produce healthy, nutrient-dense products for chefs without harming the land for future use.” (Bob Jones, Jr.)
Here's more about regenerative agriculture.
“We’d long suspected,” Farmer Lee shares, “that if we grew for the maximum in flavor, we’d also be upping the nutritional content of our vegetables. It wasn’t until recently, though, that independent testing has verified this.”
In fact, our farm-fresh vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, microgreens and more have been shown to have up to 500% more in mineral content than the USDA baselines.
Key principles of regenerative agriculture include our strategic use of bio-diverse cover crops that are specifically chosen for how they build up the health of our soil. Cover crops have just one purpose: to feed, protect, and enrich the soil. By ensuring that our soil has the healthy microbes it needs within its ecosystem, crops planted in that healthy soil develop strong immune systems. Those crops are also less susceptible to damage by insects or by disease.
We plant cover crops like alfalfa, buckwheat, oats, rye, sorghum, and more, and then we tend them for a short amount of time before working them gently into the soil. We repeat this as many times as necessary before laying out vegetable beds. Our farm team then carefully monitors these beds, wanting weed seeds to germinate but not grow enough to emerge from the ground.
We then shallowly work the ground, just enough to disturb the weeds’ hairs. Aggressive tilling would only bring up more seeds. Passively waiting allows the weeds more time to take hold. Carefully navigating this part of the process allows us to get rid of weeds.
Order Your Farm-Fresh Cruciferous Vegetables
No matter which ones you need, we invite you to talk to your product specialist about what’s at the peak of freshness.