Fall Veggies Done Ukrainian Style
by Stacey Tress
I fell in love with Brussels sprouts this past winter. My husband took notice, so in the spring he started some Brussels sprout seeds along with some other garden seeds. He had good success growing the seeds as they all came up and the next thing you knew, we had 40 Brussels sprout transplants to go into the garden.
We have some experience growing greens and brassicas or cruciferous vegetables like kale, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, turnips, collard greens, and cabbage (to name a few), but have never tried to grow Brussels sprouts before. We tried growing cabbage a few times and really loved growing kale and Swiss chard. But, oh boy, did those little white moths (cabbage moths) sure love our brassicas and were very destructive as their little worms left our veggies full of holes.
This year we experienced our first round with cabbage root maggot or root worm. After transplanting our Brussels sprouts, the plants were thriving, but then all of a sudden—1, 2, 3—they started wilting. I ran to my neighbour to seek advice. She suggested digging out the affected plants and then sprinkling on the healthy plants something called diatomaceous earth. So we did that and found exceptional results! (Diatomaceous earth is a fine ground rock, powder-like, with a lot of great gardening benefits!)
Besides the health benefits of brassicas, I love that they are a cool season crop. Unlike lettuce, which starts bolting by later June/early July (weather pending, as this year with the rain and cool temps my lettuce is still going strong), brassicas keep going into the first frosts/light snow. It’s a great way to extend the short growing season we have here on the Prairies.
I’ll touch on some health benefits and offer up some yummy and inspiring recipes. I borrowed a book called Traditional Ukrainian Cookery from another neighbour and have included all of the recipes for this article from there. Unfortunately, those recipes did not come with the amount they serve, but let’s give this amazing book from 1957 some grace and love.
What are Brassicas?
Brassicas are a family of vegetables known for their disease-fighting substances. Like all veggies, they’re low in calories, fat, and sodium. They’re also a good source of fibre and contain a variety of other essential vitamins and minerals. You may know them better as cruciferous vegetables, which they’re commonly called.
They also contain phytochemicals, which occur naturally in plants and have a variety of health benefits for our bodies. One of the best-known of these benefits in brassica is their apparent cancer-fighting properties. These vegetables contain glucosinolates, sulfur-containing phytochemicals, and studies have shown that consumption of brassicas could reduce the risk for multiple types of cancer. Boiling these vegetables can reduce the compounds that give this healthy effect, but steaming and stir frying don’t appear to do so.
This superfood is a nutritional powerhouse with high amounts of vitamins A and C. It also provides fibre, calcium, iron, vitamin B6, and magnesium, and has very few calories. Raw baby kale is a great addition to any salad, but you can also try this green lightly sautéed in a pasta dish. Or google “kale chips” and try making that yourself—you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
If you hated broccoli as a kid, try it as an adult. Broccoli tastes great in stir fries and raw with hummus. It also provides your body with fibre, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
There are many varieties of cabbage, and they can be eaten raw or cooked. This leafy vegetable has lots of fibre, along with several other essential vitamins and minerals.
Not only are Brussels sprouts a good source of protein, iron, and potassium, but they also offer other benefits that can boost your overall health.
Vitamin C is essential for normal growth and development. This nutrient keeps your immune system strong and helps maintain the health of your skin, teeth, and gums. Vitamin C protects your cells from damage as well, which can reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. A ½ cup serving of Brussels sprouts contains 48 milligrams of vitamin C, which is about 50 percent of what men need each day and about 65 percent of what women need on a daily basis. A ½ cup serving of Brussels sprouts supplies 2 grams of fibre. Fibre keeps your digestive system working normally, encourages regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. Fibre also helps reduce cholesterol levels, which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea)—(not a brassica) is an edible plant in the family of Amaranthaceae-Chenopodiaceae, which also contains beets, chard, lamb’s quarters, quinoa, purslane, tumbleweed, goosefoot, and amaranth. It shares a similar taste profile with two of its cousins, having the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavour of chard.
Spinach, like all leafy vegetables, is a useful source of iron and vitamin A. Some enjoy the natural, bland flavour of spinach; others prefer a discreet touch of onion or garlic in it to enhance its palatability.
How to Prepare:
Pick over and cut the roots and tough stems from the spinach. Wash the spinach in warm water by lifting the leaves up and down to release the sand (for garden picked spinach). Then re-wash in cold water until there is no sand in the bottom of the pan. Put the washed leaves into a kettle (pot). Water may or may not be added. There is usually enough water clinging to the leaves to cook the spinach. Cover, heat thoroughly, and then remove the cover. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the leaves are tender. Green vegetables should be cooked without a cover to permit the volatile acids to escape. This helps to preserve their green colour.
Drain the spinach in a sieve and press out the water or squeeze it dry. The spinach may be chopped if desired. Cook finely chopped, green onion tops in butter or bacon fat until tender; add the spinach, season to taste, and heat thoroughly. For a garlic flavoured spinach, add ½ clove of crushed garlic to 2 cups of spinach. Serve on a hot platter, top with some sour cream, and garnish with hard cooked eggs, or chopped crisp bacon, or both.
Beet Tops, Swiss Chard, Wild Greens
Beet tops, Swiss chard, and wild greens (lamb’s quarters, young spring nettle, poke) may be used in place of spinach. Wild greens should be gathered while they are young and before they bud. Follow the same method for preparation as for spinach.
Sauerkraut with Pork and Sausage
This popular old country dish survived many generations without losing its worth. The three flavour partners—sauerkraut, mushrooms, and meat—blend ideally, giving a rich-tasting product. This preparation makes a very handy emergency dish since it can be refrigerated and reheated. If available, use cooked dried mushrooms for a superior flavour.
2 thin slices salt pork or bacon
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 lb lean pork
1 quart sauerkraut
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 lb garlic sausage, sliced
salt and pepper
Chop the salt pork or bacon, cook until crisp, remove from the fat, and reserve it. Cut the pork into small pieces, add to the fat in the pan, and brown it lightly. Mix in the onion and cook until it is tender. Cover the meat with hot water and simmer, covered, until well done. In the final stage of cooking, add the mushrooms, then continue cooking for 10 minutes. Taste the sauerkraut for acidity. If necessary, rinse it in warm water once or more, and drain. Combine the sauerkraut with the meat along with the sausage and the reserved salt pork or bacon. Mix these ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, until the kraut is tender and the flavours are blended. Some enjoy this dish slightly thickened with browned flour. To thicken, brown 2 tablespoons of flour in 1 tablespoon of melted fat. Add 1/2 cup of cold water and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Combine with the sauerkraut. Serve as a main dish with rye bread and any favourite preparation of potatoes.
Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts
Brussels sprouts may be replaced in this recipe with savoy cabbage cut into small sections. In Ukraine, chestnuts are used in various ways. They add an interesting flavour and texture to this dish.
1 cup chestnuts
1 cup beef or chicken stock
2 to 3 cups Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup browned buttered crumbs
2 tbsp flour
Make cross-cut slits in each chestnut shell. Cover the nuts with boiling water and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool them; remove the shell and skin. Slice the chestnuts. Remove the wilted outer leaves from the Brussels sprouts and trim the base of each stem. Soak the sprouts in salted water for about 20 minutes to draw out insects. Cook the sprouts in boiling water to barely cover for about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain. Melt the butter, blend in the flour, then stir in the stock. Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens. Season it to taste with salt. Combine the sauce with the sprouts and chestnuts. Simmer for 10 minutes to blend the flavours. Put the sprouts into a serving dish and garnish with browned buttered crumbs.
Traditional Ukrainian Cookery by Savella Stechishin
Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko
Beet Tops, Swiss Chard, Wild Greens
Sauerkraut with Pork and Sausage
Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts
All 4 recipes above from Traditional Ukrainian Cookery by Savella Stechishin
Stacey Tress, a Holistic Nutritional Therapist (HNT) and Young Living Essential Oil Distributor (#2282633), lives in Rhein, SK with her husband and two daughters. She is the owner of Garden Therapy Yorkton which offers fermentation workshops, permaculture design work, organically-grown produce, and more! She also offers essential oil support and carries a wide variety of Young Living Essential Oils and products for sale. To learn more, call 306-641-4239, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Facebook “Garden Therapy Bliss.” Also see the display ad on page 9 of the 24.3 September/October issue of the WHOLifE Journal.