A Different "Can I Eat This" question
September 20, 2009 5:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm allergic to brocolli and other cruciferous vegetables. My CSA just gave me some brocolli rapini. Can I eat it?

Broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage give me really bad indigestion. And I'm particularly sensitive -- eating anything which had broccoli cooked with it also affects me. I even once ruined a whole pot of mushroom soup I made because I'd used a chopping board my roommate had chopped broccoli on, and I didn't wash the chopping board first.

I've heard conflicting information about broccoli rapini/broccoli rabe, though -- according to that Wikipedia article, it's part of the same botanical family as broccoli. However -- I've had no problem eating other vegetables from the same family.

Has anyone out there had similar problems with broccoli, and have you done okay with broccoli rapini?
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are actually all different cultivars of the same species.

Broccoli raab (rapini) is a different species, Brassica rapa. Have you ever had a bad reaction to turnip greens, bok choi, or tatsoi? They're all different cultivars of the same species.
posted by pilibeen at 6:02 AM on September 20, 2009

Bok choy and turnip greens are both okay -- sounds like this would work too, then.

That was fast. Thanks! A follow-up question, though -- what is the specific species that broccoli and cauliflower and etc. are? I want to look up what all the specific cultivars so I can know specifically what to avoid.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:28 AM on September 20, 2009

B. oleracea appears to be what you're sensitive to (from http://www.botany.com/brassica.html).
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:33 AM on September 20, 2009

....Okay, this is REALLY weird -- because according to the wikipedia article on B. Oleracea, kale and collard greens are in that species -- but I can digest them just fine.

Maybe the key is that with broccoli and cauliflower you're eating the flowers and stems, but with kale and collards it's the leaves, and it's the tougher stuff in that species that's tough on my system?

I know I've marked this "resolved" already, but this is entering the realm of intellectual curiosity and "you learn something new every day" fascination. I love it when that happens.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:51 AM on September 20, 2009

What do you mean by "really bad indigestion"? If I eat too much of any Brassica, I end up farting like a cannon array, but unless I am in a place where farting isn't possible, there's no problem.

I have to point out that you're likely not allergic at all, but may have a dietary intolerance. Allergy is a very different condition. I'm intolerant to sucrose (like in gummi bear candy); it twists my guts in knots of owie.
posted by reflecked at 10:26 AM on September 20, 2009

reflecked: combine your reaction to brassica and your reaction to sucrose and that's what I get.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:23 PM on September 20, 2009

And not just from "too much" broccoli -- I get that way from any broccoli. Even more -- I get that way from eating something that's even just TOUCHED broccoli.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:27 PM on September 20, 2009

It does sound miserable for you, Empress. I admit to being "nitpicky" about the use of the term "allergy" when there's an intolerance. Allergy can kill you; intolerance can only make you wish you were dead at times.

I'd be interested if, in the name of science, you someday did a blindfold test and ate (at different times) food that has or has not touched broccoli.
posted by reflecked at 11:02 AM on September 21, 2009

The mushroom soup incident I allude to above is the best confirmation -- my roommate used a chopping board to chop up a whole bunch of broccoli, and was just finishing up as I was getting ready to start chopping mushrooms for a mushroom barley soup. I told him I'd just use the knife and board he had out; I didn't wash it off because, "oh, it just had broccoli on it." I think I wiped a couple brocolli bits off the board with my hand, and that was it.

And I then proceeded to chop a bunch of mushrooms, an onion, two carrots, and two stalks of celery using that knife and that chopping board, thinking it was okay because I'd wiped the board off with my hand. Nope -- I still had the broccoli reaction. I think it was THAT that made me decide it was more of an "allergy" rather than an "intolerance."

But I do hear you about using the word "allergy" to refer to any reaction that doesn't require an epi-pen to cure.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:21 PM on September 21, 2009

I'm the same way about broccoli, I think it is maybe specific compounds in it and other brassica vegetables that induce cramping for me. Either way, the leaves in the form of bok choy, kale, or rapini don't seem to give me a problem, but I don't eat them much any way. I would definitely steer clear of kohlrobi...ugh, that was my worst reaction.
posted by melissam at 9:12 PM on September 21, 2009

In case anyone is curious (or even cares): I have eaten the rapini. It wasn't entirely without incident -- no pain, but a bit of bloat; but one good cup of peppermint tea and I was fine. I'm actually having the leftovers tonight.

I still think the leaves vs. flowers/stems make a big part of the difference, because I've never had a problem with kale or collards or any of those greens (in fact, I love 'em). which is tremendously encouraging, because I'd heard broccoli and cauliflower had specific cancer-fighting nutrients that I thought that I'd be missing out on -- and now it looks like I've been getting them all along anyway. Yay!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:36 AM on September 23, 2009

Do either of you have trouble with mustard? That is made from the ground seeds of the mustard (Brassica) plant that flowered.
posted by reflecked at 11:54 AM on September 23, 2009

For the record: Mustard is fine, but I haven't any problem with mustard greens either.

I think in my case it's just the really hard fibrous parts of those plants -- stems, sprouts, etc. -- that cause the upset, and if it's a leaf, my system can handle it better. As for mustard, maybe something about the processing....process breaks it down enough for my system to handle it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:59 AM on October 5, 2009

Thanks for coming back and replying, Empress. :)

This kind of dietary intolerance is really interesting (you probably would choose a different description), and I think you're right about it being handling of "roughage" that is the major issue for you. Brassicas are farty veggies to begin with, and the texture of the fiber in your intestine can promote rapid transit, which can be distressing.

I wonder if you can handle something like Cheddar-Broccoli soup, where the broccoli is pureed.
posted by reflecked at 11:33 AM on October 5, 2009

Not so sure I want to test that, actually...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:34 AM on October 5, 2009

(update, wincing)

This just in: turnips are also no good. And I just found that out the hard way last night (and I hope my roommate appreciates it when I dump the remaining half-pound of turnips into his lap and say "you know those cheese pasties I made last night? The ones I was all excited about and got the turnips special for? They're all yours now, dammit.")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:32 AM on October 6, 2009

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