Know your brassicas: what they are and how to cook with them

The low-down on kale, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, turnips and radishes and more

Even if you’ve never seen the word brassicas before, you already know what they are: they’re a collection of nourishing vegetables that include cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and more. Essential additions to any shopping basket, these nutrient-rich superstars bring colour and texture to dishes aplenty, not to mention providing the perfect vessel for spices to flourish.

Health benefits

Brassicas are superb additions to the diet: as well as containing high levels of vitamin C and soluble fibre, they are believed to decrease the risk of (and protect the body against) cancers, particularly those of the digestive system. Hyper-trendy kale is bursting with antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene, kaempferol and quercetin, and has one of the highest total antioxidant contents in the brassica family.


To retain as much goodness as possible, steam, microwave or stir-fry these veggies; boiling leads to a loss of texture – soggy cabbage, no thank you! – and allows nutrients to escape into the cooking water, making them less nutritious.

While delicious all on their own, ingredients such as cauliflower and broccoli excel when combined with herbs and spices, while red cabbage and apples prove the perfect pairing. Top tip: steam or boil cabbage quickly to retain its colour and texture, and add lemon juice, white vinegar or a slice of bread to the cooking water to eliminate any smell.


Mango, cucumber and radish salad with quinoa

Kale and radish rice tabbouleh

Red cabbage steaks with chestnut, goats’ cheese and thyme crumble

Harissa chicken and vegetable traybake with cauliflower couscous

Broccoli and beetroot salad with rosemary pesto

Romanesco apple and blue cheese salad with pecans

After some more brassica-based recipes? Check out our video for red cabbage:

And for the times when you’re feeling the cauliflower power, here are three super dishes that are sure to fly straight to the top of your cookbook. But don’t stop there – spinneysFOOD Tenderstem Broccoli wants your attention, too.