Related entries: Brassica oleracea - Brassica campestris

Major entries:
Brassica alba Boiss. White Mustard.
Brassica chinensis Linn. Chinese Cabbage.
Brassica nigra Koch. Black Mustard.

Brassica.Cruciferae. Borecole. Broccoli. Brussels Sprouts. Cabbage. Cauliflower. Charlock. Chinese Cabbage. Collards. Kale. Kohl-Rabi. Mustard. Portugal Cabbage. Rape. Red Cabbage. Rutabaga. Savoy Cabbage. Turnips.

This genus, in its cultivated species and varieties, assumes protean forms. In the cabbage section we have the borecoles and kales, which come nearest to the wild form; green and red cabbage with great, single heads; the savoys with their blistered and wrinkled leaves; brussels sprouts with numerous little heads; broccolis and the cauliflowers with their flowers in an aborted condition and borne in a dense corymb; the stalked cabbage of Jersey, which sometimes attains a height of 16 feet; the Portuguese couve tronchuda with the ribs of its leaves greatly thickened; and kohlrabi. All of these vegetables are referred by Darwin to B. oleracea Linn. The other cultivated forms of the genus are descended, according to the view adopted by some, from two species, B. napus Linn. andB. rapa Linn.; but, according to other botanists, from three species; while others again strongly suspect that all these forms, both wild and cultivated, ought to be ranked as a single species. The genus, as established by Bentham, also includes the mustards.

Brassica alba Boiss. White Mustard.

Europe and the adjoining portions of Asia. The cultivated plant appears to have been brought from central Asia to China, where the herbage is pickled in winter or used in spring as a pot-herb. In 1542, Fuchsius, a German writer, says it is planted everywhere in gardens. In 1597, in England, Gerarde says it is not common but that he has distributed the seed so that he thinks it is reasonably well known. It is mentioned in American gardens in 1806. The young leaves, cut close to the ground before the formation of the second series or rough leaves appear, form an esteemed salad.

Brassica campestris.

Brassica carinata A. Braun.

This plant is said by Unger to be found wild and cultivated in Abyssinia although it furnishes a very poor cabbage, not to be compared with ours.

Brassica chinensis Linn. Chinese Cabbage.

The pe-tsai of the Chinese is an annual, apparently intermediate between cabbage and the turnip but with much thinner leaves than the former. It is of much more rapid growth than any of the varieties of the European cabbage, so much so, that when sown at midsummer it will ripen seed the same season. Introduced from China in 1837, it has been cultivated and used as greens by a few persons about Paris but it does not appear likely to become a general favorite. It is allied to the kales. Its seeds are ground into a mustard.

But little appears to be recorded concerning the varieties of this cabbage of which the Pak-choi and the Pe-tsai only have reached European culture. It has, however, been long under cultivation in China, as it can be identified in Chinese works on agriculture of the fifth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Loureiro, 1790, says it is also cultivated in Cochin China and varieties are named with white and yellow flowers. The Pak-choi has more resemblance to a chard than to a cabbage, having oblong or oval, dark shining-green leaves upon long, very white and swollen stalks. The Pe-tsai, however, rather resembles a cos lettuce, forming an elongated head, rather full and compact and the leaves are a little wrinkled and undulate at the borders. Both varieties have, however, a common aspect and are annuals.

Considering that the round-headed cabbage is the only sort figured by the herbalists, that the pointed-headed early cabbages appeared only at a comparatively recent date, and certain resemblances between Pe-tsai and the long-headed cabbages, it is not an impossible suggestion that these cabbage-forms appeared as the effect of cross-fertilization with the Chinese cabbage. But, until the cabbage family has received more study in its varieties, and the results of hybridization are better understood, no certain conclusion can be reached. It is, however, certain that occasional rare sports, or variables, from the seed of our early, long-headed cabbages show the heavy veining and the limb of the leaf extending down the stalk, suggesting strongly the Chinese type. At present, however, views as to the origin of various types of cabbage must be considered as largely speculative.

Brassica cretica Lam.

Mediterranean regions. The young shoots were formerly used in Greece.

Brassica juncea Coss. Chinese Mustard. Indian Mustard.

The plant is extensively cultivated throughout India, central Africa and generally in warm countries. It is largely grown in south Russia and in the steppes northeast of the Caspian Sea. In 1871-72, British India exported 1418 tons of seed. The oil is used in Russia in the place of olive oil. The powdered seeds furnish a medicinal and culinary mustard.

Brassica nigra Koch. Black Mustard.

This is the mustard of the ancients and is cultivated in Alsace, Bohemia, Italy, Holland and England. The plant is found wild in most parts of Europe and has become naturalized in the United States. According to the belief of the ancients, it was first introduced from Egypt and was made known to mankind by Aesculapius, the god of medicine, and Ceres the goddess of seeds. Mustard is mentioned by Pythagoras and was employed in medicine by Hippocrates, 480 B. C. Pliny says the plant grew in Italy without sowing. The ancients ate the young plants as a spinach and used the seeds for supplying mustard.

Black mustard is described as a garden plant by Albertus Magnus in the thirteenth century and is mentioned by the botanists of the sixteenth century. It is, however, more grown as a field crop for its seed, from which the mustard of commerce is derived, yet finds place also as a salad plant. Two varieties are described, the Black Mustard of Sicily and the Large-seeded Black. This mustard was in American gardens in 1806 or earlier. The young plants are now eaten as a salad, the same as are those of B. alba and the seeds now furnish the greater portion of our mustard.

Brassica oleracea.

Brassica sinapistrum Boiss. Charlock. Field Mustard.

This is an European plant now occurring as a weed in cultivated fields in America. In seasons of scarcity, in the Hebrides, the soft stems and leaves are boiled in milk and eaten. It is so employed in Sweden and Ireland. Its seeds form a good substitute for mustard.

Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World, 1919, was edited by U. P. Hedrick.