growing squash

A Year of Studying Plant Families

In 2015, Transition Longfellow’s 1st Saturday discussion group focused on “plant families” – foods and herbs that are related to each other. The goal of the discussion was to help people learn about planting, growing, harvesting, cooking and storing different kinds of foods. Since foods in the same food family may have similar growing requirements, we thought we’d talk about them together.

Hosting this conversation was a wonderful opportunity to learn more myself. Why oh why don’t our schools do more to teach people the essential skills of proper food prep, cooking and food storage! Monthly research was eye opening. I learned:

  • Which vegetables contain “anti nutrients” that, if not properly prepared, can have a negative effect on nutritional intake.
  • Which vegetables could result in a skin burn when harvested because they contain a light-sensitizing chemical.
  • Which vegetables/herbs are most likely to be allergenic. As I have a large number of allergies, it was valuable to study which vegetables and herbs can be cross-reactive for people with allergies to ragweed or birch trees.

In this next series of blog posts, I’m going to share my plant families research, and write a little about my experience growing some of these vegetables in my Minnesota garden. I’ll write about the:

  • Fabaceae family, which includes legumes like beans, peas, and peanuts
  • Apiaceae (also called Umbelliferae) family, which includes celery, carrot, parsley and other aromatic plants with hollow stems
  • Asteraceae (composite) family, which includes lettuces and artichoke
  • Cucurbitaceae family, which includes vining plants like cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, and melons
  • Brassica (mustard) family, which includes so many of my favorite foods, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, collards, Brussels sprouts, radishes, and turnips
  • Amaryllidaceae family – actually, the subfamily Allioideae, which contains allium onions, garlic, chives, shallots
  • Lamiaceae family of herbs, which including mint, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage and lavender
  • Solanaceae (or nightshade) family, which includes so many favorite vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatillos and potatoes
  • Chenopodiaceae family, which includes beet, Swiss chard, spinach

I hope you enjoy this series and I look forward to hearing your experiences of growing these tasty foods in your own garden.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s