With so many vegetables to choose from, it’s hard to get bored with the plant-based world. Plus, plants are chock full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, the components we need for health. If you’re a veggie-lover, you’re in luck! The number of options at supermarkets and natural food markets continues to expand, as farmers grow more vegetable hybrids.
Many of the most successful and healthiest hybrids are in the cruciferous vegetable family. Many of these are harder to find, but some, like broccolini, are available at most supermarkets. But as the popularity of hybrid vegetables continues to grow, don’t be surprised to see more of these veggies at your local supermarket.
How do farmers create hybrids? They cross-pollinate two plant species to develop new vegetables that combine the traits of each. Don’t confuse hybrids with genetically modified vegetables (GMOs) that have had their genes edited in a laboratory. With hybrid vegetables, you get variety and the health benefits of each vegetable in a delicious way. Let’s look at some hybrid vegetable options available these days.
Which do you prefer, kale or Brussels sprouts? Now you don’t have to choose between the two. Instead, you can enjoy kalettes, a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale. If you didn’t know better, you might confuse this leafy hybrid vegetable with cabbage, another member of the cruciferous vegetable family, and it’s just as nutrient-dense.
What’s to love about kalettes? With only 2 grams of carbohydrates per serving and 20 calories, you will get a wealth of nutrients, including some B-vitamins, vitamin C, and potassium. Kalettes are also a powerhouse source of vitamin K, a vitamin important for blood clotting when you’re wounded. There’s growing evidence that vitamin K2, one form of vitamin K, helps keep bones healthy too.
Need another reason to love kalettes? This hybrid veggie is a rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that help shield the retina in the back of your eye from damage. Therefore, eating foods such as kalettes may lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of age-related visual decline.
One of the best ways to enjoy this cruciferous vegetable hybrid is roasted or stir-fried. However, their slightly curly texture makes them a natural for decorating a salad too. Another way to enjoy them is to dip them into a healthy dip, like hummus.
You might already be familiar with broccolini, a cross between Chinese broccoli and broccoli, recognizable by its long stalks and tiny leaves. Kalettes aren’t easy to find, but broccolini is widely available in many supermarkets, so it’s easy to get your hands on some. As it grows in popularity, even high-end restaurants are getting on board and serving broccolini as a side dish. With so many ways to prepare it, you’ll never run out of ways to enjoy this hybrid veggie. What’s the tastiest way to add this cruciferous vegetable to your plate? The most popular cooking method for broccolini is simply to steam it, but it’s also popular in stir-fries.
What’s so healthy about broccolini? It’s a stand-out source of vitamin C, with one serving supplying the day’s recommended intake, and also rich in beta-carotene. Like most cruciferous vegetables, it’s also a good source of calcium, potassium, and iron. To preserve the vitamin C in broccoli, chop it up and add it to your next salad. If you cook it, use as little water as possible and keep the cooking time short.
Who wouldn’t be intrigued by a veggie called broccoflower, also known as Romanesco broccoli? It’s a bit harder to find than broccoli, but well worth a try if you can find it. A cross between cauliflower and broccoli, broccoflower is sweeter to the palate than broccoli, and its tender texture makes it a pleasing alternative to standard broccoli, and the visual appeal is intriguing too.
An exceptional source of vitamin C, a serving supplies 1.5 times the recommended daily value. Like other cruciferous vegetables and hybrids, broccoflower is an exceptional source of folate, a B-vitamin that helps cells synthesize DNA, the cells’ genetic blueprint. You need folate daily to keep your cells healthy.
Why should you try broccoflower? Most people prefer cauliflower over broccoli because of its neutral taste, but broccoli supplies slightly more health benefits. With broccoflower, you get a sweeter taste with more health benefits than cauliflower, although the nutritional value of cauliflower is nothing to sneeze at either! When you see it at the grocery store, stop and admire its outer beauty, which closely resembles a fractal pattern. Admire its beauty and know it will add visual interest to your culinary creations too.
Sure, you’ve had cauliflower, but what about caulilini? Many people think caulilini is an exotic hybrid, hence it’s inclusion on this list, but it’s baby cauliflower. If you haven’t tried it, you’re in for a treat. Caulini is versatile enough to prepare a variety of ways–roasting, steaming, and sauteing, or raw in a salad. One advantage it has over mature cauliflower is its sweeter taste. If you’re sensitive to bitter tones, one reason some people don’t like cruciferous vegetables, caulilini might be for you.
What about the health benefits of caulilini? As with other cruciferous vegetables and hybrids on the list, it’s a powerhouse of nutrition. You get the same chemicals, like glucosinolates, that may offer anti-cancer activity, along with an array of B-vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, and potassium.
The Bottom Line
Look for these hybrid vegetables when you shop and experiment with ways to cook them. They’ll add more diversity to your diet, and you might discover a new favorite. Most importantly, make sure your diet is rich in fiber and nutrient-rich plant-based foods and that you’re limiting the bad stuff like ultra-processed carbohydrates and sugar.
- com. “Caulilini Is About to Be Your Favorite New Vegetable”
- com. “What The Heck Is A Broccoflower?”
- National Institutes of Health. “Folate”