You’ve probably been growing these vegetables or buying them at the grocery store for years and years, but did you realize how closely that they are all related?
However, you might not know that they are all domesticated from the same ancestor, wild mustard. Over that last 2,000 years, farmers have selectively bred wild mustard into what seems like entirely different vegetables but are actually very genetically similar.
Cauliflower was bred from the flower clusters. Broccoli was bred from the flowers and stems. Kale was bred from the leaves. Kohlrabi comes from the stems. Brussels sprouts come from the side buds. And cabbage comes from the end buds.
But that isn’t all. There are even more brassica vegetables like romanesco and collards.
As farmers specially bred the plants for those traits, they eventually started to vary so much that they took on entirely different names.
Brassicas, the Cruciferous Vegetables
You might also know these vegetables as cruciferous vegetables. Indeed, many plants in the cruciferous category are classified as brassicas.
Cruciferous vegetables are thought to be named as such because of the four equal sized petals in its flowers that were thought to have a cross like or crucifix shape.
But even though all these brassica vegetables are cruciferous, not all cruciferous vegetables are brassica! There are other non-brassica vegetables like radish, watercress, wasabi, arugula and others that are from different plant genus that are also cruciferous.
Cruciferous vegetables have a remarkable list of health benefits.
They are also sometimes referred to as cole crops. Cole is the American pronunciation of the German word “Kohl,” which means cabbage, and is also often used in cole slaw.
So next time you’re eating one of these vegetables from the brassica genus like broccoli, kale, cabbage or cauliflower, sit back and ponder how they all originated from the same plant!
Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University page about Cruciferous Vegetables.
National Cancer Institute: Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention
Cole Crop Family National Gardening Association