When thinking about growing food at home you need to decide what you'd like to eat what are the best all year round options. A good group of plants to consider are the Brassica (Brassicaceae) which include great staples like kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts.

So what are the health benefits?

All Brassica are naturally high in vitamin C and soluble dietary fibre, but each type is nutrient packed. This is the main reason why these plants are excellent ideal all year round vegetables.

Broccoli, in particular, contains high levels of diindolylmethane which is a immunostimulant that also exhibits antiviral, antibacterial and anticancer activity. There are also good amounts of glucoraphanin, which is a precursor to sulforaphane. This is potentially an anticancer compound, currently in clinical and phase II trials. Unfortunately, boiling reduces the levels of these compounds. However, steaming or frying doesn't degrade sulforaphane levels to the same degree.

Brussel Sprouts are also high in vitamins, diindolylmethane and sulforaphane, but are also a good source of indole-3-carbinol. This compound boosts DNA repair in cells, which in turn helps to reduce your chance of getting cancer.

Cultivation tips

  • The biggest enemy for your cauliflowers or broccoli are slugs and snails, so defending against them is paramount.
  • Brassica require really good soil and fertiliser as they require a lot of fixed-nitrogen, the better the soil then the better the crop. You may want to consider using mulch to protect the soil and this will reduce weeds. It's also a good idea to use a raised bed to grow these vegetables.
  • You will need to cover your crop to protect it from birds, especially in winter.
  • Ideally grow your Brassica in a greenhouse as this extends the harvest window, allowing them to be grown and enjoyed all year round. But you must control temperature and ventilation, heating may be required in winter.
  • That said, sprouts are at their sweetest after a good winter frost.

Cooking ideas

  • Broccoli goes well in most Indian curries or stir-fries. The florets also soaks up flavour and heat.
  • Brussels can go beyond christmas dinner, they're great with bacon and chestnuts, but also in Chinese dishes, particularly with black bean sauce.
  • Cauliflower is also great in curries such as aloo gobi