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

3 comments:

The Pfeiffs said...

Oh, I am so glad I stumbled upon your site! I am in the process of launching my own health-nutrition-whole food blog site myself and was gathering info for an article on kale when I found you. What a wonderful site. I, too, am a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with a grapefruit-sized tumor in my chest cavity (Hodgkin's Lymphoma) when I was 19 and am now 30. The cancer changed the course of my life and nutrition forever as it seems to do in these situations. It's been a decade-long journey in my attempt to transform my diet and I am finally able to embrace that this is my calling, to educate and create awareness around healing foods.Thank you for your huge contribution in the world on this and I will be pointing folks your way once I launch. Many blessings to you as you journey on. Love, Rama

rezan said...

by accident and perhaps divine intervention, i happened upon your site. at our local farmer's market today, one of the local farmers persuaded me to try kale from his farm. i have never eaten kale before. i looked up a recipe online and found your site full of wonderful, useful life saving information to be healthy. personally, i have never or godwilling never wish to have cancer yet my loved ones have had it... some survived.. some did not.. thank you for your blog and website.. how are you these days? i would enjoy corresponding with you via email, social media sites.. etc.. a friend and now a fan.. rezan from nc.

Diana Dyer said...

Dear Rama and Rezan
I am so glad that your were each guided somehow to my kale blog. Feel free to look at and enjoy my other two blogs also. In addition, our farm has a website at www.dyerfamilyorganicfarm.com (I'm still finishing this) and a Facebook page where you may follow what we do on the farm.

That is the best I can do to correspond via email/social media, in addition to what I write on my blogs. I am the chief weeder, cook, etc etc while my husband fixes the tractor, manages the bee hives, etc, etc, etc. Farming is a 24/hour day job and the hours spent joining the Facebook/website world are enjoyed but get stolen from sleep.

PS - tell your farmers about my kale blog! I have little cards that I print off to give to some of my local farmers who are selling kale that just says "Great Kale recipes at www.365DaysofKale.com"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD