2,500 years ago, ancient Romans and Greeks found a leafy plant known as wild mustard – called Brassica oleracea – growing in Europe and the Mediterranean. It tasted differently depending on where it grew, but the point is, it was edible!
So they began cultivating it. But they didn’t stop there…
They started planting those seeds with larger leaves, which eventually produced kale and collard greens.
Fast forward to the 1600s, and people started using terminal leaf buds of the wild mustard plant to create the world’s first cabbages.Then, people took wild mustard that had bigger stems and made kohlrabi. The lateral leaf buds turned into brussel sprouts. Flower buds and stems became broccoli, and flower buds became cauliflower.
As trade routes became more accessible, cruciferous veggies were brought from Italy to England to the Americas.
And now, we all enjoy them as fall delights, yes?
Perhaps… we do tend to pair them with heavier meals to savor as the weather begins to turn. But the magic of cruciferous vegetables begins in spring. Right now.
Since it takes between 100 and 150 days on average for cruciferous vegetables to grow, from germination to harvest, spring is the best time to start planting your cruciferous veggies! (More on that later.)
Especially because they offer such a bevy of complex nutritional benefits.
If your victory garden is running light on these man-made treats, consider planting them now… and absorbing the following from them.
What’s So Miraculous About Them
Cruciferous vegetables pack triple, even quadruple, punches in conquering our dense human operating systems.
When we talk about cruciferous vegetables (CVs), we’re talking about broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, arugula, brussel sprouts, watercress, collards, radishes, cabbages, wild mustard, and cabbages.
And because they all come from the same original plant, they all have similar nutritional profiles.
They’re all pretty filling, for starters. That’s because they’re low in calories but high in fiber, which means they’re great for keeping your digestive system running smoothly and also for maintaining weight.
CVs are heavy in folate, which helps create red and white blood cells as well as convert carbs into energy, and vitamins C, E, and K. But more importantly…
They contain plenty of phytonutrients and glucosinolates. Phytonutrients are plant-based compounds, well-known for reducing inflammation (critical not just for gut health, but for proper cognitive and physical function), and having cancer-preventive properties.
But glucosinolates are different. While they give CVs their unique taste and smell, they also break down into isothiocyanates and indoles, which strengthen cells from within, have antiviral and antibacterial properties, and neutralize carcinogens (substances that encourage cancer growth).
Humans were awfully prescient when they decided to multiply the uses and forms of wild mustard to create more than a dozen varieties of densely-packed cruciferous veggie.
And they’re simple to grow!
Try it In Your Own Garden
Whether you’ve been victory gardening during the pandemic, or have been gardening all your life, this is the right time to start planting CV seeds, so that you can harvest them in the fall!
Companion planting is the science focusing on which plants grow best near each other to naturally control pests, provide optimal organic pollination, and infuse the soil with better nutrients. For example, planting something with tall leaves next to something that needs shade to grow has obvious benefits.
Along with your broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower, plant garlic and onions to help keep pests away, as well as geranium, beetroot, radishes, and potatoes!
Here’s what you should know in order to plant them…
They’re frost-resistant plants, which is why it’s a good idea to have them growing into the fall. They also prefer slightly acidic or neutral soil, because it’s the same kind of soil found in coastal western Europe.
Mostly, they should be planted around 100 days before the first fall frost – although each specific plant can give or take time. Plant them where they can get a full 6-8 hours of sunlight a day!
The really leafy varieties – bok choy, kale, mustard greens, arugula – can be planted close together, but the larger kinds – cabbage, broccoli, collard greens, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower – need more space between each plant.
Planting these little man-made miracles early will make your fall harvest plentiful and filling.