The Secret Lives of Late-Fall Veggies

The winter holidays may seem like they're sneaking up fast, but we still have almost a month left of fall produce to savor, in all its abundant, colorful beauty. Here are some fun facts about eight of our favorite cool-weather veggies:

 

BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Family: Brassicaceae (a.k.a. brassica, cruciferous, mustard)

Origins: First cultivated in 16th-century Belgium[1]

Key nutrients: Rich in vitamins C and K; very good source of folate, manganese, B vitamins, fiber, choline, copper, potassium, phosphorous, and omega-3 fatty acids

Fun facts:

  • French settlers introduced Brussels sprouts to North America in the 1800s
  • These mini brassicas sprout in bunches on thick stalks that can grow up to three feet tall
  • In Chinese medicine, Brussels sprouts are prescribed to treat digestive issues
  • The same sulfuric compounds that make Brussels sprouts stink as they cook (glucosinulates) are also responsible for this veggie’s cancer-fighting power
  • Nutrients found in Brussels sprouts have been shown to support detoxification, reduce unwanted inflammation, and aid in heart and digestive health

 

CABBAGE

Family: Brassicaceae (a.k.a. brassica, cruciferous, mustard)

Origins: First cultivated in ancient Egypt and Greece[2]

Key nutrients: Rich in vitamins K, C, and B6; very good source of manganese, fiber, potassium, vitamin B1, folate, and copper

Fun facts:

 

CAULIFLOWER

Family: Brassicaceae (a.k.a. brassica, cruciferous, mustard)

Origins: Native to the northeast of the Mediterranean region (now Turkey), dating back at least 2,000 years

Key nutrients: Rich in folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamins C, K, and B6; very good source of choline, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorous, and biotin

Fun facts:

 

CARROTS

Family: Apiaceae (a.k.a. Umbelliferae, carrot)

Origins: Thought to have been cultivated as an aromatic herb for the royal garden of Babylon in the 8th century BC; the plant wasn’t cultivated for its roots until the 8th or 10th century AD, in the Arab countries of the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East[4]

Key nutrients: Rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene; very good source of biotin, vitamin K, fiber, molybdenum, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C

Fun facts:

 

PARSNIPS

Family: Apiaceae (a.k.a. Umbelliferae, carrot)

Origins: First cultivated by the ancient Romans[5]

Key nutrients: Rich in potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, and iron; good source of fiber and vitamins B, C, E, and K

Fun facts:

 

SWEET POTATOES

Family: Convolvulaceae (a.k.a. morning glory)

Origins: First cultivated in what is now South America, well before the time of the Incas[7]

Key nutrients: Rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene; very good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid, and B vitamins

Fun facts:

 

TURNIPS

Family: Brassicaceae (a.k.a. brassica, cruciferous, mustard)

Origins: First cultivated in northern Europe around 2000 BC[8]

Key nutrients: Rich in vitamin C; good source of manganese, potassium, vitamin B6, folate, and copper

Fun facts:

 

WINTER SQUASH & PUMPKINS

Family: Cucurbitaceae (a.k.a. cucurbit, cucumber, squash)

Origins: Thought to date back at least 10,000 years, originating in what is now South America

Key nutrients: Rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene; very good source of vitamin C, fiber, manganese, copper, and B vitamins

Fun facts:

 

[1] Ron Herbst and Sharon Tyler Herbst, The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion, 2nd Edition (New York: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 2015), 73.

[2] Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food, 2nd Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 121.

[3] Davidson, 121.

[4] Davidson, 143

[5] Davidson, 579.

[6] Davidson, 579.

[7] Davidson, 775.

[8] Davidson, 816.