Cruciferous vegetables belong to the Cruciferae family, also known as the mustard family. You may also hear them referred to as the “the brassicas.” Whatever you call them, these vegetables are beautiful, stinky cancer-fighting machines that can either taste delightfully sweet and decadent, or they can tragically bring back flashbacks of family vacations to Yellowstone National Park’s geysers.
Cruciferous vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and a helpful compound called glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are key. Researchers are giving glucosinolates the credit for crucifers’ ability to give cancer a kick in the pants (figuratively speaking). However, they are also what give these vegetables their pungent and bitter properties. Knowing this, it is not surprising that the two vegetables with the highest amounts of glucosinolates, kale and Brussels sprouts, are rumored to be American’s least-accepted vegetables.
How to Tone Down the Bitterness & Bring Out the Sweetness in Cruciferous Vegetables
Use an acidic ingredient
Raising the pH of the cruciferous dish can help tone down the bitterness. Do this by splashing on some vinegar or citrus juice (especially good options: lemon and lime). My favorite combinations include:
- Lemon or lime juice with olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar and olive oil
- Rice vinegar with sesame oil
- Orange juice and ginger in a kale smoothie
Salting the cruciferous vegetable can also cut the bitterness and emphasize the other flavors these vegetables offer.
Whether you are sautéing, roasting or steaming, avoid the limp, slimy, sulfurous effect by cooking until they are tender (or better yet, leave them al dente for a slight crunch).
Massage the leafy ones
Don’t we all need a little more massage in our lives? Spending a few minutes massaging hearty leafy greens (like kale) softens them up and lessens the bitterness. If you are eating them raw, let them “marinate” in an oil and vinegar dressing for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Check Out These Cruciferous Vegetables
Our favorites …
Many leafy greens …
Some that are a bit more obscure …
Laura Holtrop Kohl MS, RD
Harmons City Creek
Insider’s Viewpoint Archive