Cool Season Cancer Fighting Vegetables

Express News
Sunday, September 14, 2003

By Lynn Rawe

For years we have heard “you are what you eat.” Well, I don’t want to be a carrot or head of broccoli, but I sure like the taste of them. What would you say if you found out that many of our cool season crops help to prevent cancer? Would that change your mind about those vegetables?

Now is the time to think about growing some of those veggies for your health. Not only is gardening a great exercise but then to eat your own good, healthy, homegrown vegetables that help to fight cancer. This is a no brainer!

So start planting those cool season cancer fighting vegetables now. Plants in the crucifer group are important for fighting cancer. The Cruciferae or Brassicaceae family is commonly known as the “mustard family.” The name “cole crops” is interchangeable with crucifer vegetables. Vegetables in this group are broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. People who consume cabbage and its vegetable relatives have shown a sharply decreased risk of cancer of the colon, a common disease in the U.S. and other countries.

Vegetable growers can be proud of the fact that their products contribute to the good health of the consumer. The editor of Prevention Magazine states, “If you were to ask me what group of people have the most power to improve the health of Americans, I would say vegetable growers.”

Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and turnip greens supply carotene which the human body converts to Vitamin A. Kale, turnip greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and mustard greens contain compounds that may stop the conversion of certain lesions to cancerous cells in estrogen-sensitive tissues and suppress tumor growth.

Turnips should be planted before November 1. The recommended varieties are Royal Globe, White Lady, Toyko Cross, and Turnip Greens 7-Top.

Broccoli varieties for San Antonio are Green Comet and Premier Crop. Snow Crown is the cauliflower variety for the area. These plants should be in your garden no later than mid-September.

Mustard varieties for the area are Tenderleaf II and Florida Broad Leaf. Mustard should be planted by October 10.

Other greens that help fight the war against cancer are spinach, collards and lettuce. Leaf lettuce should be planted before October 10. Crawford Re-Seeding, Simpson Black Seeded and Red Sails are recommended lettuce varieties for San Antonio. Fall Green or Coho Spinach varieties are recommended for this area. Fall Green should be planted by October 10, but Coho can be planted until November. Collard varieties of Vates, Blue Max and Georgia should be planted by mid September.

Garlic and onion contain alluvium compounds that improve the immune system. These compounds are believed to block carcinogens from entering cells and slowing tumor growth. Onion seeds of Grano 502, Granex (Vidalia) or Texas A & M Supersweet should be planted from October 15 to November 15.

Beans and peas contain isoflavones and folates which affect estrogen and estrogen receptors. This compound is being reviewed with regard to its effects on breast cancer. Bean varieties of Greencrop, Tendercrop and Topcrop are recommended for this area and should be planted by mid-September as well as Southern peas.

Cucumbers contain sterols that are believed to decrease cholesterol. Cucumbers are divided into two types: pickling and slicing. Piccadilly, Crispy and Salty are varieties recommended for pickling. Slice Master, Poinsett, Sweet Slice, Sweet Success, Burpless and Arkansas Little Leaf are the slicing varieties recommended for San Antonio. All cucumber varieties should be planted by mid September.

There are other vegetables that fight diseases in our bodies also. Carrots and tomatoes are defenders against disease. Imperator 58, Danvers 126 and Nantes are carrot varieties we should try. Carrots and other orange-colored vegetables are additional sources of Vitamin A. Carrots may reduce the risk and prevent the development of breast cancer. Lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, is being researched on many levels. Lycopene is a carotenoid or a plant substance that provides color to fruits and vegetables including tomatoes, pink grapefruit, dried apricots and watermelons. Doctors are presently testing the beneficial effects of lycopene on prostate cancer.

Using parsley to dress up that plate of food may not be the best use of this particular herb. Parsley contains polyacetylene which destroys benzopyrene which is a carcinogen.

Maybe our mothers really did know something when they said “Eat your vegetables.” So if “we are what we eat,” we could all be healthier and lose weight, too.

Growing these vegetables is one thing, but knowing how to preserve them and cook them is another. To find out more about this subject, look for next week’s gardening, etc. article in the San Antonio Express News.

This article was written by Lynn Rawe, County Extension Agent-Horticulture with Texas Cooperative Extension in Bexar County. For more information please call 210 / 467-6575.

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