Hybrids, species and varieties

Three of these things belong together
Three of these things are kind of the same
Can you guess which one of these doesn’t belong here?
Now it’s time to play our game (time to play our game).

A. Broccoli


B. Collard Green


C. Spinach


D. Kohlrabi


I hear Sesame Street is still popular, so I don’t think that gives away my age. The answer is….drumroll…did you guess? C. Spinach.

Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, collard greens, bok choy, kohlrabi, romanesco,  garden cress and more belong to the species brassica oleracea, while spinach is spinacia oleracea. I will refer to b oleracea as the cabbages. The cabbages were cultivated for their high nutrient content and ability to grow through the winter. I learned from a farmer that these crops tasted best after a frost.

Though they are related, over the years, they have been cultivated to the point that they are hardly recognizable as cousins. And then there are the hybrids, let’s call them kissing cousins. You may have heard of a pluot or an aprium (plum apricot hybrids). Last year I discovered Kalettes – kale brussel sprout hybrids. (Are these GMOs? Yes and no. We’ll have to tackle that another time). Did you know that broccolini is also a hybrid  (of broccoli and kai-lan, a japanese b oleracea veggie)?


Variety is important to a healthy diet and it is important to mix it up. So I have been eating a lot of collards, kale (purple, curly, tuscan), brussel sprouts, and cabbage in addition to non-cabbage veggies. But cauliflower. Oh cauliflower. How I have learned to love you over the years.

I have been eating a lot of cauliflower. They have a decent amount of protein, a lot of vitamin C and B vitamins.  But cauliflower is unique. I can shred it and mix it with cheese for a gluten-free pizza crust (not while during Whole30 of course). I can make it into “rice” or bread it, fry it and coat it with buffalo sauce or dip it in ketchup.  I can mash it with cream, butter and garlic for a mash potato replacement. I slice it and season it and make them into little oven roasted “steaks.” I have made dips from cauliflower including hummus. My mother grates it, seasons it and stuffs it into a whole wheat flat bread (gobi paratha) which I eat with yogurt spiced with ground roasted cumin and salt.

There is something about the texture, the way cauliflower breaks down and cooks that makes it so unique and versatile. I feel like I have been relying heavily on cauliflower through this challenge. And as a result not introducing enough variety into my diet.

So do I reduce the amount of this glorious vegetable in my diet? No.

It is important to remember to keep an eye out at your local farmers markets or at the grocery stores, especially when fruits and veggies are in their season. Notice the varieties of stone fruits (peaces, plums, nectarines) that exist during summer? In winter, I am beginning to notice the different types of cauliflower. White cauliflower may be the most popular, but there are orange, purple and graffiti varieties as well.


Colors are important. They offer different nutrients in addition to the nutrients the most common white variety has. Orange has more beta-carotene, important for vision and immunity. The purple color is due to anthocyanins, which may help to regulate blood lipid and sugar levels and body weight, and glucoraphanin, which may have anticancer properties.

Rather than shut down my desire to make yet another cauliflower dish, I decided to go ahead and make my oven roasted cauliflower two ways, just using an orange cauliflower variety.

I used coconut milk (full fat from a can) and vadouovan spice to make a oven roasted curry cauliflower. The key is to use your hands. Mix it, coat it and gently massage the mixture into the cauliflower. For the most part (aside from some bread/dough that you don’t want to overwork) the more you play with your food, the better it tastes.


I baked these until they were crisp and the house was fragrant.


If that were not enough, I really craved buffalo style cauliflower, so I breaded florets in egg and coconut flour with spice and baked them in the oven until crisp.


Sadly I can’t show you what they looked like after coated in the homemade buffalo sauce and ranch dressing by one of my favorite recipe sites because I ate them before I took a picture (I was just taste testing to make sure they were good enough for my family. wink.) I am sticking to a pure paleo style for now but these can be spiced with any flavor profile you’d like – add onion powder or Parmesan. Add dillweed or cayenne. Pan fry or deep fry them. Smother them with a sweet and sour sauce topped with scallion and sesame. Eat them with ketchup or a favored mayo.

We are creatures of habit. I highly encourage you to introduce variety in your diet, even in small ways. I am always amazed by the varieties of fruits and vegetable that we now have available to us. Try them. Play with them. Discover a new favorite.

Vadouvan Curried Coconut Cauliflower

  • 6 Oz (1/2 can) coconut milk (blended with water is use a variety without guar gum or has a high fat content)
  • 1 Tbs Vadouvan spice
  • 1tsp. salt
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower florets

Heat the oven to 400 degress F. line a glass baking dish or a parchment with coconut oil.

Whisk the coconut, spice and salt in a bowl. Add the cauliflower a few bunches at a time, massaging in the mixture with your hands and transfer to baking dish.

Roast for 40-45 min until crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. Large florets will not be as crispy.

Breaded Cauliflower

  • 1/2 head cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1 Tbs Salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • coconut oil

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a baking dish with coconut oil (or melt some and oil up a dish or tray).

Whisk all the dry ingredients thoroughly. In a separate bowl, crack and mix the eggs.

Coat the florets in egg and then breading and place on the tray. Spray the breaded florets well with coconut oil.

Bake 25-30 minutes until crispy.

Top with buffalo wing sauce or eat with dip. (see link above for a great recipe from Against All Grain)

3 thoughts on “Hybrids, species and varieties

  1. Pingback: You can get with this or you can get with that: Bell peppers stuffed with cauliflower rice OR quinoa, butternut squash, kale, nuts and currants | The Purposeful Kitchen

  2. Pingback: Whoa tell me baby, do you like it like this: Mashed purple potato, beluga lentil and vegetable bake | The Purposeful Kitchen

  3. Pingback: Talk dinner to me: Arugula and roasted vegetable salad with zucchini “ravioli” stuffed with basil almond “ricotta” | The Purposeful Kitchen

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