February 26, 2014

Meet the Brassica Family

What’s in a name? 

Meet the Brassica-Saurus family
Savoy (aka Blistered) Cabbage: From Middle English Caboche meaning "head".

Arugala: Demonstrating a perfect Crucifer shaped Flower (also great on salads)
Radish: from the Latin for Root radix
The Brassicaceae family includes many popular vegetables (and some unpopular ones). From Broccoli to Cabbage, Arugala to Bok Choy. Roasted roots, steamed greens, fresh in salads, and frequently fermented, this family is perhaps one of the oldest and more adapted vegetables we consume.

These veggies have a variety of common names including Brassicas, Crucifers, and Cole Crops. Let’s break those names down. To start – Brassica is a relatively new term that was Latin-icized from the Celtic word for cabbage -  bresic”.

Well then, who the heck is Cole? You may have noticed a trend Cole Slaw, Collards, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi, and even Kale. These all share the same word root which is derived from the Latin word caulis meaning stem and was later used in German (Kohl). Cole Crops aren’t all Brassicas- only about a dozen of the more European ones are referred to as Cole crops (i.e not bok choy). Interestingly Bro means flower, which makes Broccoli and Cauliflower oddly similar. Cole Slaw may be the most unappetizing salad name out there. Slaw is a crudely anglicized interpretation of the Dutch word for salad. And the name for Cabbage itself is a bit of an outlier having been derived from the Middle English word for head - “caboche”.

The Brassica family gets it’s Crucifer name from the shape of its flower. Ever noticed that Broccoli flowers look a lot like Canola? Turns out Brassicas have a Crucifer (Cross) shaped flower (usually yellow or white).  You’ve probably seen some of these crops flower, such as Canola and Arugala but may not have witnessed Kale of Cabbage flowers. Some Brassicas, like many other vegetables, are Biennial. That means they produce flowers and seeds in their second year (similar to Carrots). Kale flowers are delicious if you can find them.

Speaking of Canola, that ubiquitous Prairie crop, is indeed a Brassica. The name CANOLA is actually a modern creation from CANada Oil Low Acid (or perhaps Ola meaning oil). It had the misfortune of being known as Rape Seed. Which isn’t as bad as it sounds since it was from the old Latin word for turnip - rapa. Just like Rappini.  

The Brassica family is huge, diverse, and quite incestuous – both in genetics and names. Their popularity among many cultures has lead to a slew of names which English has adopted haphazardly. Genetically there are three dominant Species in the family with a complicated history. Some were originally from Europe and others from East Asia and then people started playing with. Not even all the Cabbages are from the same Species (Napa versus Red Cabbage). 

One more thing. I have no idea what is going on with this family name in French. Someone please help me. What does "Chou" mean? Chou fleur, Chor frisee, Choux de Brusselles, Chou croute.

Finally here’s an incomplete list of Brassicas. Might not have realized you were eating brassicas for dinner! Which one is your favourite? 

In no particular order:
Broccoli, Rapini, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Savoy Cabbage, Napa Cabbage
Brussel Sprouts, Kale, Collards, Kohlrabi
Arugala, Watercress
Tatsoi, Mizuna, Mustard Greens, Bok Choy
Turnip, Rutabega, Radish
 Daikon, Horseradish, Wasabi, Mustard Seed, Canola
And more…

Brocoli: A Flowering Stalk.

Growing Kale at Bread and Butter Farm for Winter Harvest

The plant with many names: Black Kale, Lacinato, Tuscan Kale, Dinosaur Kale.

Captain Andrew Kale at Halloween

Alien shaped Kohlrabi (this one is purdy ugly).
Discussing Rutabegas at the FTP farm with Laura

"Oh boy, can't wait to get me some Brussel Sprouts."

Brussel Sprouts: They came from the Low Countries and we all love 'em!

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