Cruciferous means cross-shaped. Cruciferous vegetables have blossoms with four equally spaced petals that form a cross. You'll probably be too wowed by the taste, however, to reflect on their botanical features. Consider some of these diverse examples:
- Round-headed cabbage. This cabbage has flat leaves of pale green or reddish-purple; Savoy cabbage has frilled leaves.
- Cauliflower. The stalks are topped with bunches called curds, and the most popular varieties are white or cream-colored. Lime-green Romanesco resembles a pine forest.
- Turnips. A rounded, cream-colored root; although available earlier, turnips are most flavorful in autumn.
- Rutabagas. A round root with pale orange flesh; the skin is cream-colored darkened to reddish-purple. Rutabaga is thought to be a cross between a turnip and wild cabbage.
Cruciferous vegetables have assertive flavors and can take strong seasonings. Cabbage pairs well with vinegar in sauerkraut. The sweeter rutabaga can be spiced with cloves. Try turnips with garlic and onions.
These veggies have a reputation as being smelly when cooked. Actually, it's overcooking that releases their unpleasant aroma. If steamed or braised until just fork-tender, not limp, they actually smell lightly sweet.
Quality traits depend on the specific vegetable. In general, heads should feel tight and heavy for their size. Stalks should be firm. Florets should appear fresh; avoid faded yellow broccoli or brown-speckled cauliflower. Likewise, roots should feel solid, not spongy, with an even color.
Unlike many fall vegetables, cruciferous veggies prefer the cool, moist confines of the refrigerator crisper. Stored in perforated plastic, they'll keep up to two weeks.