The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

March 19, 2014

Amanda Stone: Spring heralds return of freshly grown veggies

CARTHAGE, Mo. — St. Patrick's Day is behind us, and spring is on the horizon. It's OK to get excited about gardening and eating fresh spring vegetables, I hope.

If you follow Irish tradition, then you plant potatoes and cool-weather veggies around St. Patrick's Day. Cruciferous vegetables don't mind frost, so another cold snap shouldn't damage your spring garden.

There are oodles of health benefits to eating cruciferous veggies such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and collard greens. They're packed with fiber, vitamins A and C and antioxidants. Cruciferous vegetables have high levels of vitamin K, making them a natural anti-inflammatory. New research indicates cruciferous veggies can lower the risk of cancer and even stop or slow the growth of existing cancer cells. They are truly super foods.

Raw cruciferous veggies pack the most health punch. Unfortunately, they have a bad reputation for wreaking havoc with our digestive systems. Microwaving them isn't recommended, but steaming or sauteing them for a few minutes will make them easier on your gut, while keeping most of their health benefits.

Cruciferous veggies are unique in that each entire plant is usually edible. Turnips, radishes and kohlrabi are all the root of the plant, but their green leaves are just as edible. Stalks of cauliflower and broccoli are fantastic in soups. The tasty, leafy greens of kale, bok choy and arugula speak for themselves. I love being able to eat all the parts of my food. The less waste we make, the better.

I've sung the praises of pesto before, but it's so amazingly versatile that I will sing them again. Winter greens such as collards, mustard and arugula can all be made into pesto. In fact, nearly anything green can become pesto perfection. That is the magic of garlic, olive oil and Parmesan. Pesto makes everything taste good. Serving it over pasta is one thing, but also consider stirring it into sauteed veggies, mixing it with cream cheese for dip or slathering it on pizza crust for homemade green love.

Hit up the farmers market while you're waiting for your own cruciferous crops to grow. Vendors are loaded with good greens right now. Try these recipes with your favorite veggies.

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