Brassica oleracea

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 Brassica oleracea subsp. var.  
Wild Cabbage plants
Habit: herbaceous
Height: to
Width: to
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Lifespan: biennial
Features: edible
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USDA Zones: to
Sunset Zones:
Flower features: purple, white
Brassicaceae > Brassica oleracea var. , L.

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Brassica oleracea, or Wild Cabbage, is a species of Brassica native to coastal southern and western Europe, where its tolerance of salt and lime and its intolerance of competition from other plants typically restrict its natural occurrence to limestone sea cliffs, like the chalk cliffs on both sides of the English Channel.

Wild B. olearacea is a tall biennial plant, forming a stout rosette of large leaves in the first year, the leaves being fleshier and thicker than those of other species of Brassica, adaptations to store water and nutrients in its difficult growing environment. In its second year, the stored nutrients are used to produce a flower spike 1 to(-) 2 m tall bearing numerous yellow flowers.

It has been bred into a wide range of cultivars, including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and more, some of which are hardly recognisable as being members of the same genus, let alone species. The historical genus of crucifera, meaning four-petalled flower, may be the only uniting feature beyond taste. It has become established as an important human food crop plant. According to the Triangle of U theory, B. oleracea is very closely related to five other species of the genus Brassica.[1]

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Brassica oleracea, Linn. Cabbage, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Kale. Fig. 627. Lvs. smooth from the first, and the root not tuberous: fls. large and long (¾-1 in. length, at least often), light- colored, slender- pedicelled, in long and open racemes: pods large, long-beaked. If the name Brassica oleracea is held for a generalized group without a type form, then the wild plant may be designated as var. syl- vestris, Linn. In the present treatment, however, the wild form is regarded as the type and is therefore not given a varietal name. Brassica oleracea grows wild on the sea-cliffs of W. and S. Eu. Fig. 628, from nature, shows the common form as it grows on the chalk cliffs of the English Channel. It is a perennial plan t of short duration, or perhaps sometimes a biennial, with a very tough and woody root, a diffuse habit, and large thick deep- lobed Ivs. in various shades of green and reddish, and more or less glaucous. The Ivs. of this plant were probably eaten by the barbarous or half-civilized peoples; and, when history begins, the plant had been transferred to cult, grounds and had begun to produce dense rosettes or heads of Ivs. It appears to have been in general use before the Aryan migrations to the westward. There were several distinct types or races of the cabbage in cult, in Pliny's time. From the one original stock have apparently sprung all the forms of cabbages, cauliflowers, brussels sprouts and kales. For this family or group of plants the English language has no generic name. The French include them all under the term Chou, and the Germans treat them under Kohl. These various tribes may be classified as follows:

Var. acephala, DC. Fig. 706. The various headless cabbages, comprising kales or borecoles, in many types and varieties, as the tall or tree kales, curled or Scotch kales, and collards. Its likeness may be found wild on the cliffs of the southeastern coast of England today. The thick, tender Ivs. of the kales are used as "greens." See Col- lards and Kale. It is not certain that all the kales and collards belong here; some of them may be B. campestris.

Var. Caulo-Rapa, DC. Kohlrabi (which see). St. tuberous above the roots, the tuber bearing the Ivs.

Var. gemmifera, DC. The bud-bearing cabbage, or brussels sprouts (see Fig. 672). In this group, the main st. or axis is tall and erect, and axillary buds are developed into little heads. See Brussels sprouts.

Var. capitata, Linn. The head-bearing, or true cabbages, kraut of the Germans. In this group, the main axis is short and thick, and the Ivs. are densely packed into a gigantic bud or head (Figs. 701-705). The varieties of cabbage are very numerous and various. See Cabbage. A serviceable classification of them might follow this order:

Var. botrytis, Linn. Cauliflower and broccoli, in which the head is formed of the condensed and thickened fl.-cluster. Broccoli produces its heads later in the season than cauliflower, and in mild climates it is allowed to remain and make its heads in spring. See Cauliflower.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



Pests and diseases


The cultivars of B. oleracea are grouped by developmental form into seven major cultivar groups, of which the Acephala Group remains most like the natural Wild Cabbage in appearance:

Some (notably brussels sprouts and broccoli) contain high levels of sinigrin which may help prevent bowel cancer.

For other edible plants in the family Brassicaceae, see cruciferous vegetables.


Several cultivars of Brassica oleracea, including Kale, Brussels sprouts, Savoy, and Chinese kale


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