Sunday, April 22, 2012

Kale makes it into The Scotsman

A fellow long-term cancer survivor sent me the link to a Letter to the Editor she wrote that was published in The Scotsman earlier this month, highlighting kale. Her letter was edited to omit the name of and link to this blog, but pointing people to was her hope.

You should know that headline writers come up with the headlines, article and letter titles, and even the paragraph headers within an article, all designed to 'hook' you into an article, thus the deliberate use of the words like "cure" in the heading for this letter.

Here is both the link and the text:

'Curious Kale Cure'. 

How heartening to read that the Scottish Government is sponsoring research at the Aberdeen Rowett Institute into health benefits of cruciferous vegetables, including kale (your report, 5 April). 

Kale used to be one of the staple items of a Scottish diet, when meat was only rarely eaten by the vast majority, and yet in these years Scotland produced some of its most famous sons.

I was lucky enough as a child always to have a garden, and wherever we lived kale was grown, and frequently eaten.

It is a vegetable I have grown myself as an adult whenever I could, so was fascinated some years ago to come across an internet site extolling the health benefits of this humble vegetable.

It was written by a leading dietician on diet after cancer. She said kale is one of the best foods you can eat to optimise chances of good health at any time, and especially for those who have endured cancer treatments.

Caroline McManus
Newmills Road

In fact kale used to be so prevalent in Scottish kitchen gardens that the term 'kailyard' was synonymous with a cottage garden, and the term 'kale' even simply meant 'dinner'. 

So all hail kale, curious or not, a cure or not. Thanks, Caroline, for sharing the delicious and healthy news about eating kale in Scotland and upcoming research. I hope to visit your beautiful country again someday, the home to many of my ancestors. :)

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Are nasturtiums a Brassica?

Oh I am so excited when someone reads the fine print so to speak on my blog and gives me feedback. :) I recently received a comment from a reader who read through my list of Brassica 'family members' and saw where I ended with 'What have I overlooked?' and wrote to tell me! Thank you!!

The two plants this reader mentioned were 1) mizuna, and 2) nasturtiums.

Mizuna - yes, yes, yes - Thank you! I will add this on my list of Brassica vegetables. I know I have a note somewhere on my desk, in my purse, in a file, oh somewhere that just says 'add mizuna', but without that note in front of me, it did not get done. While mizuna is usually sold as part of a baby greens salad mix, some specialty greens growers will have mizuna available to purchase by itself at a farmers market. It is very peppery and a little goes a long way adding Brassica flavoring to a fresh or wilted green salad or other recipe. Here is a website that shows lots of salad greens with a picture of mizuna.

Nasturtiums - hmmm - this made me do some digging (through the computer files, not in my garden) into Botanical Taxonomy. Here is what I found out. Nasturtiums (the flowers) belong to the Plant Order called Brassicales, which includes many Family sub-categories such as Brassicaceae (crucifers, mustards, etc) and Tropaeolaceae (Nasturtiums).

That separation makes the nasturtium flowers seem like cousin of the other Brassica vegetables, rather than a direct family member.

However, I was more interested in components of the nasturtium plant (leaves, flowers, seeds) knowing they are edible, as I began wondering if there are phytochemicals called glucosinolates in nasturtiums, too, like those found in the Brassica plants. Well, there are glucosinolates in nasturtium plant parts, different ones than those found in the other Brassica vegetables, but still potentially beneficial from a medicinal or health-promoting perspective, as this research article shows.

All of my quick study could have been completely confused and even derailed by the complications that always come up, such as the fact that watercress, a Brassica, has the official name of Nasturtium officinale! Good think I like to keep digging........ :)

So bottom lines: 1) I will add Mizuna to my list, but not nasturtium flowers. 2) Enjoy eating nasturtiums, the flowers, the seeds, and leaves, because they add beauty, interesting flavor, and likely a whole host of healthful molecules, including other types of glucosinolates, to our diets.

Variety, variety, variety is the spice of life!

Many thanks to my astute reader who was eager to share her knowledge with all of us. :)

Where kale, mizuna, and nasturtiums are all more than decoration on my plate!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD