The Main Beneficial Members of Brassicaceae Family
Updated: Mar 15, 2021
by Emirhan Turan, September 22, 2020
Brassicaceae also know as Cruciferae composed of 338 genera and around 3700 species. The plant family includes many high nutritional, bio-economical, and valuable edible members such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip, horseradish, radish, mustard plant, wasabi, etc. Brassicaceae family has a few ornamental plant examples as well, such as Basket-of-gold, candytuft, and honesty. The Best-known Brassicaceae species in the scientific area is considered as a weed and a model-organism is Arabidopsis thaliana known as thale cress.
Brassicaceae contain different glucosinolates in each variety. They also contain myrosinases enzymes that convert the glucosinolates into isothiocyanates, thiocyanates, and nitriles which are toxic to some organisms, and help guard against herbivory. Here are some important and most known Brassicaceae family members and their values.
Broccoli, native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor, is an edible green annual plant in the cabbage family. Broccoli is identified with the Italian peninsula, Roman author, and life science historian Pliny the Elder together with Apicius (in his cookbook) mentioned a cabbage-like edible plant in their texts. It is mainly grown for the edible flowering head and stalk. It is eaten raw in salads or cooked. Broccoli is high in dietary fiber and several vitamins and minerals, including potassium ( ̴316 mg/100 g), folic acid ( ̴63 μg/100 g), and vitamins A ( ̴31 μg/100 g), C ( ̴89.2 mg/100 g), and K ( ̴101.6 μg/100 g). It has high valuable bioactive compounds such as sulfur-containing glucosinolate compounds, isothiocyanates, and sulforaphane, which are decreased by boiling but can be preserved better with steaming, microwaving, or stir-frying. Isothiocyanates are responsible for the bitter taste in broccoli. Raw broccoli also contains moderate amounts (10–19% DV) of several B vitamins together with manganese, zinc, sodium, iron, and calcium.
Head cabbage is generally known as “cabbage,” is a major table vegetable in most countries of the temperate zone. Ancient Egyptians ate cooked cabbage before the main meals to reduce the intoxicating effects of wine while Greeks were using cabbage juice against mushroom poisoning. Cabbage is high in dietary fiber and several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C ( ̴36.6 mg/100g), vitamin K ( ̴76 μg/100g). Cabbage is a very good vitamin B complex source together with manganese, zinc, sodium, iron, and calcium. The characteristic flavor of cabbage is due to sulfur-containing glucosides named glucosinolates. Cabbage is a source of indole-3-carbinol which produced by the breakdown of the glucosinolate glucobrassicin.
Cauliflower is an edible member of the Brassicaceae family mainly served as cooked or raw in salads. It is grown for the head part. Cauliflower is high in vitamin C ( ̴48.2 mg/100g) and K ( ̴ 15.5 μg/100g), cauliflower is a good source of vitamin B complex as well. Cauliflower has bioactive such as isothiocyanates and glucosinolates, however, boiling the cauliflower reduces the bioactive while other cooking methods such as steaming, and stir-frying does not have any significant effect.
Kale is an edible Brassicaceae variety which is grown for its leaves. Kale is a rich source of vitamin K ( ̴390 μg/100g ), vitamin C ( ̴ 120 mg/100g ), and vitamin A ( ̴241 μg /100g). Kale is a significant source of the vitamin B complex, vitamin E, manganese, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus as well. Kale is rich in bioactive like most of the Brassicaceae family members such as carotenoids, lutein, zeaxanthin, and glucosinolates (glucoraphanin). Microwaving, steaming, and stir-frying are the most convenient methods for cooking the Kale as they do not have a significant effect on ingredients.
Turnip is an edible root vegetable in the Brassicaceae family. Turnip leaves and roots have a sharp flavor when it is raw. Turnip is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A. It has significant amounts of the vitamin B complex, folate potassium, sodium, and phosphorus. Glucosinolates are the main bioactive in turnips.
Horseradish is a perennial, edible, root vegetable of the Brassicaceae family that originates from Russia and Hungary. It is cultivated for its spicy taste that is coming from the organosulfur bioactive compound (Isothiocyanate). Vinegar neutralizes the reaction and stabilizes the sharp flavor of horseradish when added immediately after grating. Horseradish sauce can be prepared with cream, sour cream, or mayonnaise, which makes it milder. Horseradish has a similar taste to Wasabi; therefore, Wasabi sauces are prepared with Horseradish due to the scarcity of Wasabi plant. Horseradish is rich in vitamin C and moderate content of dietary fiber, sodium, and folate. It contains mustard oil which is a volatile oil.
The mustard plant is a spicy plant species in the Brassicaceae family that is grown for its seeds and to use as a condiment. Mustard is native to Europe, Siberia, and China, however, ancient Romans used it as a spice for flavor and to preserve their meats. They used the mustard seeds to make a condiment that makes it one of the oldest condiments in Europe. Mustard seeds are used for their medicinal properties such as digestive and antiseptic properties, respiratory problems, treatment of cold and skin rashes across the world. Africans put a spiritual meaning to the Mustard plant, where they believed smoking its dried flowers and leaves is enabling the communication with their ancestors. Mustard is used as a pesticide and in recent research of biodiesel due to its high oil content. Mustard greens are high in vitamins K and C together with glucosinolate.
Wasabi or Japanese horseradish (Wasabia japonica or Eutrema japonicum) is a native Japanese plant and have used as a medicinal herb since ancient times. Wasabi is deemed from most of the experts to be one of the hardest plants to grow commercially. Wasabi is now consistently used as a spice or sauce in sashimi, sushi, and is essential for Japanese kitchen due to its pungent taste (allyl isothiocyanate, AIT) and flavor. Generally, rhizomes are preferred to use as spice or sauce, but leaves (winter leaves) and stems also contain the specific flavor and are used for processed foods, such as pickles and salad. The leaves can be consumed raw, however, over-consuming can cause diarrhea. The wasabi paste is prepared right before the service in restaurants as it starts to lose the flavor after 15 minutes. Isothiocyanate is the major flavor substance of wasabi, which is extremely volatile, and unstable that directly affecting the quality of wasabi products. It has been found that isothiocyanates have various physiological functions, including antibacterial, antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic activities. Beyond the bioactive compound that wasabi has, they are a rich source of Vitamin C and chlorophyll.
Arabidopsis thaliana known as thale cress is a well-known model organism in plant biology and plant genetics. It became one of the most studied plants in plant biotechnology due to its small genome of approximately 135 Mbp, easy growth, and short life cycle. It was the first plant that have genome sequenced and has been used in molecular biology, flower development, light sensing, and herbicide studies. A. thaliana is considered as a weed, but it is consumed in salads or cooked. Arabidopsis is used as a model organism also in space missions to observe the growth and reproduction of plants from seed to seed.
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