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Brassica (Sturtevant, 1919)

Sturtevant, Notes on edible plants, 1919
Brassica (Sturtevant, 1919)



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 kohl-rabi. 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. and B. 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.


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 Linn.


The turnip, says Unger, is derived from a species growing wild at the present day in Russia and Siberia as well as on the Scandinavian peninsula. From this, in course of cultivation, a race has been produced as B. campestris Linn., and a second as B. rapa Linn., our white turnip, with many varieties. The cultivation of this plant, indigenous in the region between the Baltic Sea and the Caucasus, was probably first attempted by the Celts and Germans when they were driven to make use of nutritious roots. Buckman was inclined to the belief that B. campestris and B. napus are but agrarian forms derived from B. oleracea. Nowhere, he asserted, are the first two varieties truly wild but both track cultivation throughout Europe, Asia and America. Lindley says this plant, B. campestris, has been found apparently wild in Lapland, Spain, the Crimea and Great Britain but it is difficult to say whether or not it is truly wild. When little changed by cultivation, it is the colsa, colza, or colsat, the chou oleifere of the French, an oil-reed plant of great value. This is the colsa of Belgium, the east of France, Germany and Switzerland but not of other districts, in which the name is applied to rape. Unger states that this plant, growing wild from the Baltic Sea to the Caucasus, is the B. campestris oleifera DC. or B. colza Lam. and that its culture, first starting in Belgium, is now extensively carried on in Holstein. De Candolle supposes the Swedish turnip is a variety, analogous to the kohl-rabi among cabbages, but with the root swollen instead of the stem. In its original wild condition, it is a flatfish, globular root, with a very fine tail, a narrow neck and a hard, deep yellow flesh. Buckman, by seeding rape and common turnips in mixed rows, secured, through hybridization, a small percentage of malformed swedes, which were greatly improved by careful cultivation. If Bentham was correct in classing B. napus with B. campestris, the result of Buckman's experiment does not carry the rutabaga outside of B. campestris for its origin. Don classifies the rutabaga as B. campestris Linn. var. oleifera, sub. var. rutabaga.

The turnip is of ancient culture. Columella, A. D. 42, says the napus and the rapa are both grown for the use of man and beast, especially in France; the former does not have a swollen but a slender root, and the latter is the larger and greener. He also speaks of the Mursian gongylis, which may be the round turnip, as being especially fine. The distinction between the napus and the rapa was not always held, as Pliny uses the word napus generically and says that there are five kinds, the Corinthian, Cleonaeum, Liothasium, Boeoticum and the Green. The Corinthian, the largest, with an almost bare root, grows on the surface and not, as do the rest, under the soil. The Liothasium, also called Thracium, is the hardest. The Boeoticum is sweet, of a notable roundness and not very long as is the Cleonaeum. At Rome, the Amitemian is in most esteem, next the Nursian, and third our own kind (the green?). In another place, under rapa, he mentions the broadbottom (flat?), the globular, and as the most esteemed, those of Nursia. The napus of Amiternum, of a nature quite similar to the rapa, succeeds best in a cool place. He mentions that the rapa sometimes attains a weight of forty pounds. This weight has, however, been exceeded in, modem times. Matthiolus, 1558, had heard of turnips that weighed a hundred pounds and speaks of having seen long and purple sorts that weighed thirty pounds. Amatus Lusitanus, 1524, speaks of turnips, weighing fifty and sixty pounds. In England, in 1792, Martyn says the greatest weight that he is acquainted with is thirty-six pounds. In California, about 1830, a turnip is recorded of one hundred pounds weight.

In the fifteenth century, Booth says the turnip had become known to the Flemings and formed one of their principal crops. The first turnips that were introduced into England, he says, are believed to have come from Holland in 1550. In the time of Henry VIII (1509-1547) according to Mclntosh, turnips were used baked or roasted in the ashes and the young shoots were used as a salad and as a spinach. Gerarde describes them in a number of varieties, but the first notice of their field culture is by Weston in 1645. Worlidge, 1668, mentions the turnip fly as an enemy of turnips and Houghton speaks of turnips as food for sheep in 1684. In 1686, Ray says they are sown everywhere in fields and gardens. In 1681, Worlidge says they are chiefly grown in gardens but are also grown to some extent in fields. The turnip was brought to America at a very early period. In 1540, Cartier sowed turnip seed in Canada, during his third voyage. They were also cultivated in Virginia in 1609; are mentioned again in 1648; and by Jefferson in 1781. They are said by Francis Higginson n to be in cultivation in Massachusetts in 1629 and are again mentioned by William Wood, 1629-33. They were plentiful about Philadelphia in 1707. Jared Sparks planted them in Connecticut in 1747. In 1775, Romans in his Natural History of Florida mentions them. They are also mentioned in South Carolina in 1779. In 1779, General Sullivan destroyed the turnips in the Indian fields at the present Geneva, New York, in the course of his invasion of the Indian country. The common flat turnip was raised as a field crop in Massachusetts and New York as early as 1817.

(B. napus esculenta DC.)

This turnip differs from the Brassica rapa oblonga DC. by its smooth and glaucous leaves. It surpasses other turnips by the sweetness of its flavor and furnishes white, yellow and black varieties. It is known as the Navet, or French turnip. This was apparently the napa of Columella.1 This turnip was certainly known to the early botanists, yet its synonymy is difficult to be traced from the figures. However, the following are correct:

  • Napus. Trag. 730. 1552; Matth. 240. 1664; Pin. 144. 1561; Cam. Epit. 222. 1586; Dod. 674. 1616; Fischer 1646.
  • Bunias sive napus. Lob. Icon. 1 :200. 1591.
  • Bunias silvestris lobelii. Ger. 181. 1597.
  • Napi. Dur. C. 304. 1617.
  • Bunias. Bodaeus 733. 1644.
  • Napus dulcis. Blackw. t. 410. 1765.
  • Navet petit de Berlin. Vilm. 360. 1883.
  • Teltow turnip. Vilm. 580. 1885.

The navets are mentioned as under cultivation in England by Worlidge, 1683; as the French turnip by Wheeler, 1763, and in Miller's Dictionary, 1807. Gasparin says the navet de Berlin, which often acquires a great size, is much grown in Alsace and in Germany. It is grown in China, according to Bretschneider. This turnip was known in the fifth century.

(B. rapa depressa DC.)

This turnip has a large root expanding under the origin of the stem into a think, round, fleshy tuber, flattened at the top and bottom. It has white, yellow, black, red or purple and green varieties. It seems to have been known from ancient times and is described and figured by the earlier botanists. The synonymy is as follows:

A. Flattened both above and below.

  • Rapum. Matth. 240. 1554; Cam. Epit. 218. 1586.
  • Rapum sive rapa. Pin. 143. 1561.
  • Rapa. Dur. ?.386. 1617.
  • Navet turnip. Vilm. 583. 1883.

B. Flattened, but pointed below.

  • Orbiculatum seu turbinatum rapum. Lob. Icon. I :197. 1791
  • Rapum. Porta, Phytognom. 120. 1591.
  • Rapum vulgare. Dod. 673. 16i6.
  • Rave d'Auvergne tardive. Vilm. C. Globular.
  • Rapum. Trag. 728. 1552.
  • Rapa, La Rave. Toum. 113. 1719.
  • Navet jaune d'Hollande. Vilm. 370. 1883.
  • Yellow Dutch. Vilm. 588. 1885.

(B. rapa oblonga DC.)

This race of turnip differs from the preceding in having a long or oblong tuber tapering to the radicle. It seems an ancient form, perhaps the Cleonaeum of Pliny.

  • Vulgare rapum alterum. Trag. 729. 1532.
  • Rapum longum. Cam. Epit. 219. 1586.
  • Rapum tereti, rotunda, oblongaque radici. Lob. Icon. 1: 197. 1591.
  • Rapum oblongius. Dod. 673. 1616.
  • Rapum sativum rotundum et oblongum. Bauh. J. 2:838. 1651.
  • Rapa. La Rave. Tourn. 113. 1719.
  • Navet de Briollay. Vilm. 372. 1883.

This account by no means embraces all the turnips now known, as it deals with form only and not with color and habits. In 1828, 13 kinds were in Thorburn's American Seed Catalog and in 1887, 33 kinds. In France, 12 kinds were named by Pirolle in 1824 and by Petit in 1826. In 1887, Vilmorin's Wholesale Seed-list enumerates 31 kinds.


Bentham classes rape with B. campestris Linn. and others are disposed to include it as an agrarian form of B. oleracea Linn. Darwin says B. napus Linn., in which he places rape, "has given rise to two large groups, namely Swedish turnips (by some believed to be of hybrid origin) and colzas, the seeds of which yield oil." It can be believed quite rationally that the Swedish turnip may have originated in its varieties from B. campestris and from hybridization with B. napus. To this species, Lindley refers some of the rapes, or coles, the navette, navette d'hiver, or rabette of the French, and the repo, ruhen or winter reps of the Germans, while the summer rapes he refers to B. praecox. Rape is used as an oil plant but is inferior to colza. It is also used in a young state as a salad plant. Of this species there is also a fleshy-rooted variety, the Tetlow turnip, or navet de Berlin petit of the French, the root long and spindle-shaped, somewhat resembling a carrot. Its culture in England dates from 1790 but it was well known in 1671 and is noticed by Caspar Bauhin in his Pinax. It is much more delicate in flavor than our common turnip. In Prance and Germany, this Tetlow turnip is extensively cultivated. To what extent our common turnips are indebted to the rapes, seems impossible to say, for Metzger, by culture, converted the biennial, or winter rape, into the annual, or summer rape, varieties which Lindley believes to be specifically distinct. The Bon Jardinier says, in general, the early turnips of round form and growing above ground belong to B. napus and names the Yellow Malta, Yellow Finland and Montmaquy of our catalogs.

Summer rape is referred by Lindley to B. praecox Waldst. & Kit. In the east of France, it is called navette d'ete, or navette de mai and by the Germans summer reps. Some botanists refer summer rape to B. campestris Linn. and winter rape to B. napus Linn. Rape is also referred to B. rapa Linn. The evidence is unusually clear, says Darwin, that rape and the turnip belong to the same species, for the turnip has been observed by Koch and Godron to lose its thick roots in uncultivated soil and when rape and turnips are sown together they cross to such a degree that scarcely a single plant comes true. Summer rape seems to be grown to a far less extent than winter rape.


The rutabaga of the Swedes, the navet de Suede, or chou de Suede, or chou rutabaga, or chou navet jaune, of the French was introduced into England somewhere about the end of the eighteenth century. In the Maine Farmer of May 15, 1835, a correspondent, John Burston, states that the rutabaga, Swedish turnip, or Lapland turnip — for by all these names was it known — was introduced to this country since the commencement of the present century. Six or more varieties are named in all seed catalogs and Burr describes 11 kinds.

The rutabagas of our gardens include two forms, one with white flesh, the other with yellow. The French call these two classes chou-navets and rutabagas respectively. The chou-navet, or Brassica napo-brassica communis DC., has either purple or white roots; the rutabaga, or B. napo-brassica Ruta-baga A. P. DC., has a more regular root, round or oval, yellow both without and within. In English nomenclature, while now the two forms are called by a common name, yet formerly the first constituted the turnip-rooted cabbage. In 1806, the distinction was retained in the United States, McMahon describing the turnip-rooted cabbage and the Swedish turnip, or Rutabaga. As a matter of convenience we shall describe these two classes separately. The first description of the white-rooted form is by Bauhin in his Prodromus, 1620, and it is named again in his Pinax, 1623, and is called napo-brassica. In 1686, Ray apparently did not know it in England, as he quotes Bauhin's name and description, which states that it is cultivated in Bohemia and is eaten, but Morison, in 1669, catalogs it among the plants in the royal gardens. In France, it is named by Tournefort, in 1700, Brassica radice napiformi, or chou-navet. In 1778, this was called in England turnip-cabbage with the turnip underground and in the United States, in 1806, turnip-rooted cabbage, as noted above. There are three varieties described by Vilmorin under the names chou-navet, chou turnip, and chou de Lapland, one of which is purple at the collar; apparently these same varieties are named by Noisette in 1829. The white and the red-collared were named by Pirolle, in 1824. This class, as Don says in 1831, is little known in English gardens, though not uncommon in French horticulture.

The rutabaga is said by Sinclair, in the account of the system of husbandry in Scotland, to have been introduced into Scotland about 1781-2, and a quotation in the Gardeners' Chronicle says it was introduced into England in 1790. It is mentioned in 1806 by McMahon as in American gardens, and in 1817 there is a record of an acre of this crop in Illinois. The vernacular names all indicate an origin in Sweden or northern Europe. It is called Swedish turnip or Roota-baga by McMahon, 1806, by Miller's Dictionary, 1807, by Cobbett, 1821, and by other authors to the present time. De Candolle, 1821, calls it navet jaune, navet de Suede, chou de Laponie, and chou de Suede; Pirolle, in 1824, Ruta-baga or chou navet de Suede, as does Noisette in 1829. In 1821 Thorbum calls it Ruta-baga, or Russian turnip, and a newspaper writer in 1835 calls it Ruta-baga, Swedish turnip and Lapland turnip. The foreign names given by Don in 1831 include many of the above named and the Italian navone di Laponia. Vilmorin in his Les Plantes Potageres, 1883, describes three varieties: one with a green collar, one with a purple collar and a third which is early. B. 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.


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.


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.


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 acephala DC.


The chief characteristics of this species of Brassica are that the plants are open, not heading like the cabbages, nor producing eatable flowers like the cauliflowers and broccoli. The species has every appearance of being one of the early removes from the original species and is cultivated in many varieties known as kale, greens, sprouts, curlico, with also some distinguishing prefixes as Buda kale, German greens. Some are grown as ornamental plants, being variously curled, laciniated and of beautiful colors. In 1661, Ray journeyed into Scotland and says of the people that "they use much pottage made of coal-wort which they call keal." It is probable that this was the form of cabbage known to the ancients.

The kales represent an extremely variable class of vegetable and have been under cultivation from a most remote period. What the varieties of cabbage were that were known to the ancient Greeks it seems impossible to determine in all cases, but we can hardly question but that some of them belonged to the kales. Many varieties were known to the Romans. Cato, who lived about 201 B. C., describes the Brassica as: the levis, large broad-leaves, large-stalked; the crispa or apiacan; the lenis, small-stalked, tender, but rather sharp-tasting. Pliny, in the first century, describes the Cumana, with sessile leaf and open head; the Aricinum, not excelled in height, the leaves numerous and thick; the Pompeianum, tall, the stalk thin at the base, thickening along the leaves; the brutiana, with very large leaves, thin stalk, sharp savored; the sabellica, admired for its curled leaves, whose thickness exceeds that of the stalk, of very sweet savor; the Lacuturres, very large headed, innumerable leaves, the head round, the leaves fleshy; the Tritianom, often a foot in diameter and late in going to seed. The first American mention of coleworts is by Sprigley, 1669, for Virginia but this class of the cabbage tribe is probably the one mentioned by Benzoni as growing in Hayti in 1565. In 1806, McMahon recommends for American gardens the green and the brown Aypres and mentions the Red and Thick-leaved Curled, the Siberian, the Scotch and especially recommends Jerusalem kale.

The form of kale known in France as the chevalier seems to have been the longest known and we may surmise that its names of chou caulier and caulet have reference to the period when the word caulis, a stalk, had a generic meaning applying to the cabbage race in general. We may hence surmise that this was the common form in ancient times, in like manner as coles or coleworts in more modern times imply the cultivation of kales. This word coles or caulis is used in the generic sense, for illustration, by Cato, 200 years B. C.; by Columella the first century A. D.; by Palladius in the third; by Vegetius in the fourth century A. D.; and Albertus Magnus in the thirteenth. This race of chevaliers may be quite reasonably supposed to be the levis of Cato, sometimes called caulodes. According to De Candolle, this race of chevaliers has five principal subraces, of which the following is an incomplete synonymy:

  • Brassica laevis. Cam. Epit. 248. 1586; Matth. Op. 366. 1598.
  • Br. vulgaris sativa. Ger. 244. 1597.
  • Cavalier branchu. DeCand. Mem. 9. 1821. *Thousand-headed. Burr 236. 1863.
  • Chou branchu du Poitou. Vilm. 135. 1883.
  • Chou mille têtes. Vilm. 1. c.

II. a. viridis.
  • Kol. Roeszl. 87. 1550.
  • Brassica. Trag. 720. 1552.
  • Brassica alba vulgaris. Bauh. J. 2:829. 1651.
  • Chou vert commun. Decand. Mem. 9. 1821.
  • Cow Cabbage. Burr 232. 1863.
  • Chou cavalier. Vilm. 134. 1883.
  • Brassica vulgaris alba. Chabr. 290. 1677.

II. b. rubra.
  • Brassica primum genus. Fuch. 413. 1542.
  • Br. rubra prima species. Dalechamp 523. 1587.
  • Br. rubra. Ger. 244. 1597.
  • Br. rubra vulgaris. Bauh. J. 2:831. 1651; Chabr. 270. 1877.
  • Red cavalier. De Cand. Mem. 9. 1821.
  • Flanders kale. Burr 233. 1863.
  • Caulet de Flander. Vilrn. 134. 1883.

  • Brassica vulgaris sativa. Lob. Obs. 122. 1576; Icon. 1:243. 1591; Dod. 621. 1616.
  • Br. alba vulgaris. Dalechamp 520. 1587.
  • Brassica. Dur. C. 76. 1817.
  • Chou a feuilles de Chene. De Cand. Mem. 10. 1821.
  • Buda kale. Vilm. 141. 1885.

IV. a.
  • Brassica secundum genus. Fuch. 414. 1542.
  • Br. fimbriata. Lob. Obs. 124. 1576; Icon. 247. 1591.
  • Br. sativa crispa. Ger. 244. 1597.
  • Br. crispa. Dod. 622. 1616.
  • Br. crispa lacinosa. Bauh. J. 2:832. 1651.
  • Chou vert frise. De Cand. Mem. 10. 1821.
  • Tall Green Curled. Burr 236. 1863.
  • Chou frise vert grand. Vilm. 131. 1883.

IV. b.
  • Brassica crispa, seu apiana. Trag. 721. 1552.
  • Br. crispa Tragi. Dalechamp 524. 1587.
  • Br. tenuifolia laciniata. Lob. Icon. 1:246. 1591.
  • Br. selenoides. Dod. 622. 1616.
  • Br. tenuissima laciniata. Bauh. J. 2:832. 1651.
  • Br. selenoides. Ger. 248. 1597.
  • Chou plume ou Chou aigrette. De Cand. Mem. 11. 1821.
  • Ornamental kales of our gardens.

  • Brassica tophosa. Ger. 246. 1547; Bauh. J. 2:830. 1651.
  • Br. tophosa Tabernemontano. Chabr. 270. 1677.
  • Chou palmier. De Cand. Mem. 11. 1821; Vilm. 133. 1883.

These forms occur in many varieties, differing in degree only, and of various colors, even variegated. In addition to the above we may mention the proliferous kales, which also occur in several varieties. The following synonyms refer to proliferation only, as the plants in other respects are not similar:—

  • Brassica asparagoides Dalechampii. Dalechamp 522. 1587.
  • Brassica prolifera. Ger. 245. 1597.
  • Brassica prolifera crispa. Ger. 245. 1597.
  • Cockscomb kale. Burr 232. 1863.
  • Chou frise prolifere. Vilm. 133. 1883.


De Candolle does not bring these into his classification as offering true types, and in this perhaps he is right. Yet, olericulturally considered, they are quite distinct. There are but few varieties. The best marked is the Dwarf Curled, the leaves falling over in a graceful curve and reaching to the ground. This kale can be traced through variations and varieties to our first class, and hence it has probably been derived in recent times through a process of selection, or through the preservation of a natural variation. There is an intermediate type between the Dwarf Curled and the Tall Curled forms in the intermediate Moss Curled.


Two kales have the extensive rib system and the general aspect of the Portugal cabbage. These are the chou brocoli and the chou frise de mosbach of Vilmorin. These bear the same relation to Portugal cabbage that common kale bears to the heading cabbages.

Brassica oleracea botrytis cymosa DC.


The differences between the most highly improved varieties of the broccoli and the cauliflower are very slight; in the less changed forms they become great. Hence two races can be defined, the sprouting broccolis and the cauliflower broccolis. The growth of the broccoli is far more prolonged than that of the cauliflower, and in the European countries it bears its heads the year following that in which it is sown. It is this circumstance that leads us to suspect that the Romans knew the plant and described it under the name cyma—"Cyma a prima sectione praestat proximo vere." "Ex omnibus brassicae generibus suavissima est cyma," says Pliny. He also uses the word cyma for the seed stalk which rises from the heading cabbage. These excerpts indicate the sprouting broccoli, and the addition of the word cyma then, as exists in Italy now, with the word broccoli is used for a secondary meaning, for the tender shoots which at the close of winter are emitted by various kinds of cabbages and turnips preparing to flower.

It is certainly very curious that the early botanists did not describe or figure broccoli. The omission is only explainable under the supposition that it was confounded with the cauliflower, just as Linnaeus brought the cauliflower and the broccoli into one botanical variety. The first notice of broccoli is quoted from Miller's Dictionary, edition of 1724, in which he says it was a stranger in England until within these five years and was called "sprout colli-flower," or Italian asparagus. In 1729, Switzer says there are several kinds that he has had growing in his garden near London these two years: "that with small, whitish-yellow flowers like the cauliflower; others like the common sprouts and flowers of a colewort; a third with purple flowers; all of which come mixed together, none of them being as yet (at least that I know of) ever sav'd separate." In 1778, Mawe, names the Early Purple, Late Purple, White or Cauliflower-broccoli and the Black. In 1806, McMahon mentions the Roman or Purple, the Neapolitan or White, the Green and the Black. In 1821, Thorbum names the Cape, the White and the Purple, and, in 1828, in his seed list, mentions the Early White, Early Purple, the Large Purple Cape and the White Cape or Cauliflower-broccoli.

The first and third kind of Switzer, 1729, are doubtless the heading broccoli, while the second is probably the sprouting form. These came from Italy and as the seed came mixed, we may assume that varietal distinctions had not as yet become recognized, and that hence all the types of the broccoli now grown have originated from Italy. It is interesting to note, however, that at the Cirencester Agricultural College, about 1860, sorts of broccoli were produced, with other variables, from the seed of wild cabbage.

Vilmorin says: "The sprouting or asparagus broccoli, represents the first form exhibited by the new vegetable when it ceased to be the earliest cabbage and was grown with an especial view to its shoots; after this, by continued selection and successive improvements, varieties were obtained which produced a compact, white head, and some of these varieties were still further improved into kinds which are sufficiently early to commence and complete their entire growth in the course of the same year; these last named kinds are now known as cauliflowers."

Brassica oleracea bullata gemmifera DC.


This vegetable, in this country, grown only in the gardens of amateurs, yet deserving more esteem, has for a type-form a cabbage with an elongated stalk, bearing groups of leaf-buds in the axils of the leaves. Sometimes occurring as a monstrosity, branches instead of heads are developed. Quite frequently an early cabbage, after the true head is removed, will develop small cabbages in the leaf-axils, and thus is formed the Brassica capitata polycephalos of Dalechamp, 1587, which he himself describes as a certain unused and rare kind.

Authors have stated that brussels sprouts have been grown from time immemorial about Brussels, in Belgium; but, if this be so, it is strange that they escaped the notice of the early botanists, who would have certainly noticed a common plant of such striking appearance and have given a figure. Bauhin, indeed, 1623, gives the name Brassica ex capitibus pluribus conglobata, and adds that some plants bear 50 heads the size of an egg, but his reference to Dalechamp would lead us to infer that the plant known to him was of the same character as that figured by Dalechamp above noted. Lobel, 1655, refers to a cabbage like a Brassica polycephalos, but, as he had not seen it, he says he will affirm nothing. Ray, 1686, refers to a like cabbage.

A. P. De Candolle, 1821, describes brussels sprouts as commonly cultivated in Belgium and implies its general use in French gardens, but Booth says it is only since about 1854 that it has been generally known in England. A correspondent of the Gardeners' Chronicle, 1850, however, refers to the tall sorts as generally preferred to the dwarf by the market gardeners about London. In American gardens, it is mentioned in 1806 and this implies its general use in Europe. But two classes are known, the tall and the dwarf, and but a few minor variations in these classes. The tall is quite distinct in habit and leaf from the dwarf, the former having less crowded sprouts and a more open character of plant, with leaves scarcely blistered or puckered. As, however, there is considerable variation to be noted in seedlings, furnishing connecting links, the two forms may legitimately be considered as one, the difference being no greater than would be explained by the observed power of selection and of the influence for modification which might arise from the influence of cabbage pollen. This fact of their being of but one type, even if with several variables, would seem to indicate a probability that the origin is to be sought for in a sport, and that our present forms have been derived from a suddenly observed variable of the Savoy cabbage type and, as the lack of early mention and the recent nature of modern mention presupposes, at some time scarcely preceding the last century.

Allied to this class is the Tree cabbage, or Jersey cabbage, which attains an extreme height of 16 feet, bearing a comparatively small, open cabbage on the summit, the Thousand-headed cabbage, the Poiton cabbage, and the Marrow cabbage, the stems of which last are succulent enough to be boiled for food. In 1806, McMahon describes brussels sprouts, but he does not include them in his list of American garden esculents so they were not at that time in very general use. Fessenden, 1828, mentions the Thousand-headed cabbage but it does not seem to have been known to him personally. Thorbum, in his catalog for 1828, offers its seed for sale, but one variety only, and in 1881, two varieties.

Brassica oleracea bullata major DC.


This race of cabbage is distinguished by the blistered surface of its leaves and by the formation of a loose or little compacted head. Probably the heading cabbages of the ancient Romans belong to this class, as, in their descriptions, there are no indications of a firm head, and at a later period this form is named as if distinctly Roman. Thus, Ruellius, 1536, describes under the name romanos a loose-heading sort of cabbage but does not describe it particularly as a Savoy. This sort probably is the Brassica italica tenerrima glomerosa flore albo figured by J. Bauhin, 1651, its origin, judging from the name, being ascribed to Italy; it is also figured by Chabraeus, 1677, under the same name and with the additional names of Chou d'ltalie and Chou de Savoys. In the Adversaria and elsewhere, this kind is described as tender and as not extending to northern climates. This form, so carefully pictured as existing under culture, has doubtless been superseded by better varieties. It has been cultivated in English gardens for three centuries. In 1806, McMahon mentions three savoys for American gardens. In 1828, Thorbum offers in his catalog seeds of five varieties and in 1881 offers seed of but three.

Brassica oleracea capita DC.


Few plants exhibit so many forms in its variations from the original type as cabbage. No kitchen garden in Europe or America is without it and it is distributed over the greater part of Asia and, in fact, over most of the world. The original plant occurs wild at the present day on the steep, chalk rocks of the sea province of England, on the coast of Denmark and northwestern France and, Lindley says, from Greece to Great Britain in numerous localities. At Dover, England, wild cabbage varies considerably in its foliage and general appearance and in its wild state is used as a culinary vegetable and is of excellent flavor. This wild cabbage is undoubtedly the original of our cultivated varieties, as experiments at the garden of the Royal Agricultural College and at Cirencester resulted in the production of sorts of broccoli, cabbages and greens from wild plants gathered from rocks overhanging the sea in Wales. Lindley groups the leading variations as follows: If the race is vigorous, long jointed and has little tendency to turn its leaves inwards, it forms what are called open cabbages (the kales); if the growth is stunted, the joints short and the leaves inclined to turn inwards, it becomes the heart cabbages; if both these tendencies give way to a preternatural formation of flowers, the cauliflowers are the result. If the stems swell out into a globular form, we have the turnip-rooted cabbages. Other species of Brassica, very nearly allied to B. oleracea Linn., such as B. balearica Richl., B. insularis Moris, and B. cretica Lam., belong to the Mediterranean flora and some botanists suggest that some of these species, likewise introduced into the gardens and established as cultivated plants, may have mixed with each other and thus have assisted in, giving rise to some of the many races cultivated at the present day.

The ancient Greeks held cabbage in high esteem and their fables deduce its origin from the father of their gods; for, they inform us that Jupiter, laboring to explain two oracles which contradicted each other, perspired and from this divine perspiration the colewort sprung. Dioscorides mentions two kinds of coleworts, the cultivated and the wild. Theophrastus names the curled cole, the swath cole and the wild cole. The Egyptians are said to have worshipped cabbage, and the Greeks and Romans ascribed to it the happy quality of preserving from drunkenness. Pliny mentions it. Cato describes one kind as smooth, great, broadleaved, with a big stalk, the second ruffed, the third with little stalks, tender and very much biting. Regnier says cabbages were cultivated by the ancient Celts.

Cabbage is one of the most generally cultivated of the vegetables of temperate climates. It grows in Sweden as far north as 67° to 68°. The introduction of cabbage into European gardens is usually ascribed to the Romans, but Olivier de Serres says the art of making them head was unknown in France in the ninth century. Disraeli says that Sir Anthony Ashley of Dorsetshire first planted cabbages in England, and a cabbage at his feet appears on his monument; before his time they were brought from Holland. Cabbage is said to have been scarcely known in Scotland until the time of the Commonwealth, 1649, when it was carried there by some of Cromwell's soldiers. Cabbage was introduced into America at an early period. In 1540, Cartier in his third voyage to Canada, sowed cabbages. Cabbages are mentioned by Benzoni as growing in Hayti in 1556; by Shrigley, in Virginia in 1669; but are not mentioned especially by Jefferson in 1781. Romans found them in Florida in 1775 and even cultivated by the Choctaw Indians. They were seen by Nieuhoff in Brazil in 1647. In 1779, cabbages are mentioned among the Indian crops about Geneva, New York, destroyed by Gen. Sullivan in his expedition of reprisal. In 1806, McMahon mentions for American gardens seven early and six late sorts. In 1828, Thorbum offered 18 varieties in his seed catalog and in 1881, 19. In 1869, Gregory tested 60 named varieties in his experimental garden and in 1875 Landreth tested 51.

The headed cabbage in its perfection of growth and its multitude of varieties, bears every evidence of being of ancient origin. It does not appear, however, to have been known to Dioscorides, or to Theophrastus or Cato, but a few centuries later the presence of cabbage is indicated by Columella and Pliny, who, of his variety, speaks of the head being sometimes a foot in diameter and going to seed the latest of all the sorts known to him. The descriptions are, however, obscure, and we may well believe that if the hard-headed varieties now known had been seen in Rome at this time they would have received mention. Olivier de Serres says: "White cabbages came from the north, and the art of making them head was unknown in the time of Charlemagne." Albertus Magnus, who lived in the twelfth century, seems to refer to a headed cabbage in his Caputium, but there is no description. The first unmistakable reference to cabbage is by Ruellius, 1536, who calls them capucos coles, or cabutos and describes the head as globular and often very large, even a foot and a half in diameter. Yet the word cabaches and caboches, used in England in the fourteenth century, indicates cabbage was then known and was distinguished from coles. Ruellius, also, describes a loose-headed form called romanos, and this name and description, when we consider the difficulty of heading cabbages in a warm climate, would lead us to believe that the Roman varieties were not our present solid-heading type but loose-headed and perhaps of the savoy class.

Our present cabbages are divided by De Candolle into five types or races: the flat-headed, the round-headed, the egg-shaped, the elliptic and the conical. Within each class are many sub-varieties. In Vilmorin's Les Plantes Potageres, 1883, 57 kinds are described, and others are mentioned by name. In the Report of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station for 1886, 70 varieties are described, excluding synonyms. In both cases the savoys are treated as a separate class and are not included. The histories of De Candolle's forms are as follows:


Type, Quintal. The first appearance of this form is in Pancovius Herbarium, 1673, No. 612. A Common Flatwinter, probably this form, is mentioned by Wheeler, 1763; the Flat-topped is described by Mawe, 1778. The varieties that are now esteemed are remarkably flat and solid.


Type, Early Dutch Drumhead. This appears to be the earliest form, as it is the only kind figured in early botanies and was hence presumably the only, or, perhaps, the principal sort known during several centuries. The following synonymy is taken from drawings only and hence there can be no mistake in regard to the type:

  • Brassicae quartum genus. Fuch. 416. 1542.
  • Kappiskraut. Roeszl. 87. 1550.
  • Caulis capitulatis. Trag. 717. 1552.
  • Brassica capitata. Matth. 247. 1558; Pin. 163. 1561; Cam. Epit. 250. 1586.
  • Kol oder Kabiskraut. Pict. 90. 1581.
  • Brassica alba sessilis glomerata, aut capitata Lactucae habitu. Lobel Icon. 1:243. 1591.
  • Brassica capitata albida. Dalechamp 1:521. 1587; Dod. Pempt. 623. 1616. *Brassica capuccia. Dur. C. 78. 1617.
  • Brassica capitata alba. Bod. 777. 1644; Bauh. J. 1:826. 1651; Chabr. 269. 1677.

The descriptive synonymy includes the losed cabbage, a great round cabbage of Lyte's Dodoens, 1586; the White Cabbage Cole of Gerarde, 1597; the White Cabbage of Ray, 1686; the chou pomme blanc of Toumefort, 1719; the English of Townsend, 1726; the Common White of Wheeler, 1763; the English or Late, of Stevenson, 1765; the Common Round White of Mawe, 1778.


Type, the Sugar-loaf. Vilmorin remarks of this variety, the Sugar-loaf, that, although a very old variety and well known in every country in Europe, it does not appear to be extensively grown anywhere. It is called chou chicon in France and bundee kobee in India. It is mentioned by name by Townsend, 1726; by Wheeler, 1763; by Stevenson, 1765; and by Mawe, 1778. Perhaps the Large-sided cabbage of Worlidge and the Long-sided cabbage of Quintyne belong to this division.


Type, Early York. This is first mentioned by Stevenson, 1765, and he refers to it as a well-known sort. According to Burr, it came originally from Flanders. There are now many varieties of this class.


Type, Filderkraut. This race is described by Lamarck, 1783, and, if there is any constancy between the name and the variety during long periods, is found in the Battersea, named by Townsend in 1726 and by a whole line of succeeding writers.

It is certainly very singular that but one of these races of cabbage received the notice of the older botanists (excepting the one flat-topped given by Chabraeus, 1677), as their characteristics are extremely well marked and form extreme contrasts between the conical, or pointed, and the spherical-headed. We must, hence, believe that they either originated or came into use in a recent period. How they came and whence they came, must be decided from a special study, in which the effect of hybridization may become a feature. From the study of sports that occasionally appear in the garden, the suggestion may be offered that at least some of these races have been derived from crossings with some form of the Chinese cabbage, whereby form has become transferred while the other characteristics of the Chinese species have disappeared. On the other hand. the savoy class, believed to have origin from the same source as the cabbage, has oval or oblong heads, which have been noted by the herbalists.

It is very remarkable, says Unger, that the European and Asiatic names used for different species of cabbage may all be referred to four roots. The names kopf kohl (German), cabus (French), cabbage (English), kappes, kraut, kapost, kaposta, kapsta (Tartar), kopee (Beng.), kopi (Hindu), have a manifest relation to the Celto-Slavic root cap or kap, which in Celtic means head. Brassica of Pliny is derived from the Celtic, bresic cabbage. The Celto-Germanico-Greek root caul may be detected in the word kaol, the Grecian kaulion of Theophrastus, the Latin caulis; also in the words caulx, cavolo, coan, kohl, kale, kaal (Norwegian), kohl (Swedish), col (Spanish), kelum (Persian); finally, the Greco-Germanic root cramb, krambe, passes into krumb, karumb of the Arabians. The want of a Sanscrit name shows that the cabbage tribe first found its way at a later period to India and China. This tribe is not mentioned as in Japan by Thunberg, 1775.

Brassica oleracea capitata rubra DC.


This is a very distinct and probably a very ancient kind of a peculiar purple color and solid heading. It is cultivated in a number of varieties and in 1854 the seed of Red Savoy was distributed from the United States Patent Office. One variety is mentioned for American gardens by McMahon, 1806, and one variety only by Thorbum, 1828 and 1881, but several distinct sorts can now be obtained from seedsmen. Burr, 1863, describes three reds and one so deeply colored as to be called black.

The first certain mention of this cabbage is in 1570, in Pena and Lobel's Adversarial and figures are given by Gerarde, 1597, Matthiolus, 1598, Dodonaeus, 1616, and J. Bauhin, 1651. These figures are all of the spherical-headed type. In 1638, Ray notices the variability in the colors upon which a number of our seedsmen's varieties are founded. The oblong or the pointed-headed types which now occur cannot be traced. The solidity of the head and the perfectness of the form in this class of cabbage indicate long culture and a remote origin. In England, they have never attained much standing for general use, and, as in this country, are principally grown for pickling.


As grown in the United States, collards, or colewort, are sowings of an early variety of cabbage in rows about one foot apart to be cut for use as a spinach when about six or eight inches high. Other directions for culture are to sow seeds as for cabbage in June, July and August for succession, transplant when one month old in rows a foot apart each way, and hoe frequently. The collard plants are kept for sale by seedsmen, rather than the cabbage seed under this name. In the Southern States, collards are extensively grown and used for greens and after frost the flavor is esteemed delicious.

Brassica oleracea caulo-rapa communis DC.


This is a dwarf-growing plant with the stem swelled out so as to resemble a turnip above ground. There is no certain identification of this race in ancient writings. The bunidia of Pliny seems rather to be the rutabaga, as he says it is between a radish and a rape. The gorgylis of Theophrastus and Galen seems also to be the rutabaga, for Galen says the root contained within the earth is hard unless cooked. In 1554, Matthiolus speaks of the kohl-rabi as having lately come into Italy. Between 1573 and 1575, Rauwolf saw it in the gardens of Tripoli and Aleppo. Lobel, 1570, Camerarius, 1586, Dalechamp, 1587, and other of the older botanists figure or describe it as under European culture. Kohl-rabi, in the view of some writers, is a cross between cabbage and rape, and many of the names applied to it convey this idea. This view is probably a mistaken one, as the plant in its sportings under culture tends to the form of the Marrow cabbage, from which it is probably a derivation. In 1884, two kohl-rabi plants were growing in pots in the greenhouse at the New York Agricultural Experiment Station; one of these extended itself until it became a Marrow cabbage and when planted out in the spring attained its growth as a Marrow cabbage. This idea of its origin finds countenance in the figures of the older botanists; thus, Camerarius, 1586, figures a plant as a kohl-rabi which in all essential points resembles a Marrow cabbage, tapering from a small stem into a long kohl-rabi, with a flat top like the Marrow cabbage. The figures given by Lobel, 1591, Dodonaeus, 1616, and Bodaeus, 1644, when compared with Camerarius' figure, suggest the Marrow cabbage. A long, highly improved form, not now under culture, is figured by Gerarde, 1597, J. Bauhin, 1651, and Chabraeus, 1677, and the modern form is given by Gerarde and by Matthiolus, 1598. A very unimproved form, out of harmony with the other figures, is given by Dalechamp, 1587, and Castor Durante, 1617. The synonymy can be tabulated as below:

  • Caulorapum. Cap. Epit. 251. 1586.

  • Rapa Br. peregrine, caule rapum gerens. Lob. Icon. 246. 1591.
  • Br. caule rapum gerens. Dod. Pempt. 625. 1616.
  • Rapa brassica. Bodaus 777. 1644.

  • Caulo rapum longum. Ger. 250. 1597.
  • Br. caulorapa. Bauh. J. 2:830. 1651.
  • Br. caulorapa sive Rapo caulis. Chabr. 270. 1677.

  • Caulorapum rotundum. Ger. 250. 1597.
  • Brassica gongylodes. Matth. Opera 367. 1598.

  • Brassica raposa. Dalechamp 522. 1587.
  • Bradica raposa. Dur. C. 1617. app.

Matthiolus, as we have stated, says the plant came into Germany from Italy; Pena and Lobel say it came from Greece; Gerarde, that it grows in Italy, Spain and Germany, whence he received seeds. This plant was an inmate of the Old Physic Garden in Edinburgh before 1683. In 1734, it was first brought into field culture in Ireland; in Scotland in 1805; and in England in 1837. In the United States, it was mentioned by McMahon, 1806. Fessenden, 1828, names two varieties, one the aboveground and the other the below-ground tumip-rooted. Darwin speaks of the recently formed new race, already including nine subvarieties, in which the enlarged part lies beneath the ground like a turnip. Two varieties are used in France in ornamental gardening, the leaves being cut and frizzled, and the artichoke-leaved variety is greatly prized for decoration by confectioners. These excerpts indicate a southern origin, for this vegetable and the Marrow cabbage are very sensitive to cold. The more highly improved forms, as figured in our synonymy, are in authors of northern or central Europe, while the unimproved forms are given by more southern writers. This indicates that the present kohlrabi received its development in northern countries. The varieties now grown are the White and Purple, in early and late forms, the Curledleaf, or Neapolitan, and the Artichoke-leaved.

Brassica oleracea costata oblonga DC.


This cabbage is easily recognizable through the great expansion of the midribs and veins of the leaf, in some cases forming quite half of the leaf, the midrib losing its identity in the multitude of radiating, branching veins. In some plants the petioles are winged clear to the base. Nearly all the names applied to this form indicate its distribution, at least in late years, from Portugal, whence it reached English gardens about 1821 and American gardens, under the name of Portugal Cabbage, about 1850. It should be remarked, however, that a chou a la grosse cote was in French gardens in 1612 and in three varieties in 1824.

This cabbage varies in a direction parallel to that of the common cabbage, or has forms which can be classed with the kales and the heading cabbages of at least two types.

The peculiarity of the ribs or veins occasionally appears among the variables from the seed of the common cabbage, hence atavism as the result of a cross can be reasonably inferred. As to the origin of this form, opinion, at the present stage of studies, must be largely speculative but we may reasonably believe that it originated from a different form or a different set of hybridizations than did the common cabbage. The synonymy appears to be:

  • Choux a la grosse cote. Jard. Solit. 1612.
  • Chou blond aux grosses cotes. Bosc. Diet. 4, 43. 1789.
  • Brassica oleracea aceppala costata. DC. Syst. 2:584. 1821.
  • B. oleracea costata. DC. Trans. Hort. Soc. Lond. M. 5:12. 1824.
  • Chou aux grosses cotes. Vilm. 1883.

Brassica sinapistrum Boiss.


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.