Answer: Brassica is a group of plants belonging to the Mustard family, Cruciferae. It includes vegetables that are commonly grown and known as Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collards, Kale, Kohlrabi, Mustard, Rape, Rutabaga and Turnip. Many can be grown for their ornamental leaves.
Broccoli - Broccoli was derived from a species of wild Cabbage, B. oleracea. Through cultivation, this species has become so complex that scientists have divided it into several botanical groups. The Common Broccoli (Botrytis group) was developed to have a dense, central flowering head on a thick stem. Sprouting Broccoli (Italica group), also known as Italian Broccoli and Asparagus Broccoli, is wild looking and has loose, leafy stems and edible flower shoots, but no central head. (Botrytis group) This is a biennial, grown as an annual. It has grayish-green leaves and succulent, edible stems, which support large, compact heads of thickly clustered flower buds. Heads may be blue-green, purple-green or green. (Italica group) This Broccoli doesn't form a central head. Instead, it forms many slender, flowering shoots from a central stem. Both green and purple varieties exist. Some prefer this Broccoli (sprouting Broccoli) to the heading type because it has a longer harvesting period.
Brussels Sprouts - This vegetable's botanical name is B. oleracea gemmifera. These plants have an erect, central stem. Dozens of little "sprouts" that resemble miniature cabbages are densely packed along it, between the petioles of the leaves. If left on the plant they would eventually develop into flowering shoots.
Cabbage - The varieties of Cabbage that are grown in gardens are descended from the wild Cabbage. The most familiar are the head Cabbages (B. oleracea, Capitata group), which include smooth green or red kinds and crinkly-leaved Savoys. There are two kinds of Chinese Cabbages: Heading types, Pe-tsai (B. rapa, Pekinensis group), which either have cylindrical or barrel-shaped heads; non-heading types, or Pak-choi (B. rapa, Chinensis group), have loosely clustered leaves on succulent stems, but form no compact, central head. Ornamental Cabbages (B. oleracea, Acephala group) are cultivated for the sake of their beautiful leaves. (Capitata group) These Cabbages have round, conical, or flattened heads, which may be colored green, blue-green, or reddish-purple; the texture of the leaves may be waffled, as in Savoy Cabbages, or smooth. The sizes of the heads range from mini-cabbages that weigh a pound to Alaska-grown kraut varieties that weigh 60 lbs. or more. Cabbages have very short stem joints and on some varieties the heads are practically coreless. The broad, outside leaves lie flat against the ground and the "wrapper" leaves form the heads. (Pekinensis group, Pe-tsai, - heading) This Chinese Cabbage has several popular names including Pe-tsai, Celery Cabbage and Napa Cabbage. They come in many different shapes; the heads may be long, slender and cylindrical, with dark green tip leaves, such as Michihli types, or short and barrel-shaped, with yellowish-green or yellow leaves, as in Napa types. The leaf petioles are broad and fleshy. Chinese Cabbage is cooked, stir fried or added to salads. (Chinensis group, Pak-choi - nonheading) These Chinese Cabbages are great for small gardens. Other common names are Pak-choi, Bok Choy, Chinese Mustard and Celery Mustard. The dark green leaves have a powdery bloom and broad, white petioles that are shingles at the base. The inner leaves cluster, but do not form a head. (Acephala group - ornamental) These have beautiful leaves that come in cream, white, pink, purple, green and lavender bicolor variations. The outer leaves of a mature plant are tough, but the central leaves make colorful coleslaw and can be boiled. You can use the leaves to line salad plates or remove the center leaves from young heads to make pretty "bowls" for various fillings.
Cauliflower - The botanical name of this vegetable is B. oleracea variety botrytis. Cauliflower are the large, flat, central clusters of flower buds called curds. The inner leaves on some kinds curve inwards to cover and blanch the curd. On others, the outer leaves need to be tied together to protect the curd from the sun or else it may turn an unattractive brownish-green color. Purple varieties do not need to be blanched.
Collards - (Acephala Group - ornamental) Collards have wide, smooth, blue-green leaves. The lower leaves hang down with age and the upper or crown leaves are usually cupped. Collards are similar to it's relative, Kale, but taste slightly different and seem to be preferred across the South.
Kale - (Acephala Group - ornamental) Kale is like a nonheading Cabbage and differs slightly from Collards in appearance and taste. Most Kale varieties have upright, green to deep blue-green leaves with fringed or wavy edges and long petioles. Ornamental, or flowering Kale is a pretty plant with frilly leaves and open growth. The leaves are beautifully colored and variegated with purple, cream, white, or rose. This plant can be eaten, but isn't bred for tenderness.
Kohlrabi - This vegetable, also known as Turnip Cabbage and Stem Turnip, is a close relative of Cabbage. It grows from an erect stem that forms a turnip-like swelling just above the surface of the soil. This edible swelling is often called a bulb. The foliage grows from the bulb on long stems and resembles the leaves of Cabbage. There are purple- or green-skinned varieties and they both have a greenish-white interior. These plants are ready to eat only a few weeks after sowing.
Mustard - Mustard has several common names such as Indian Mustard, Brown Mustard and Spinach Mustard. Mustard leaves are yellowish to medium green and fairly wide. When they are mature, the plants are large, loose and open. The White Mustard, B. alba, is a common weed. The Black Mustard, B. nigra, is a tall annual that is grown commercially for its seeds, which are dried and ground to make the familiar condiment mustard. It grows from 4 to 6 feet high. The plant has coarse leaves and branches of yellow flowers, which are followed by sickle-shaped pods of seeds. The Leaf Mustard is B. juncea and B. rapa is the Tendergreen Mustard. The Tendergreen Mustard is often planted instead of the larger Mustard greens. Tendergreen plants are smaller (8 to 12 in. high) than Mustard greens when ready to harvest.
Rape & Hanover Salad - Some kinds of Rape, also called Colza, are direct seeded from late summer through fall for pasturing livestock. Other varieties are grown to produce birdseed or processed to make rape oil. Rape plants are too big and coarse to plant in small gardens, but are occasionally grown for greens because they are frost hardy. Some gardeners grow Rape to turn under as an inexpensive green manure crop. The large, rough plants have bristly, lyre- or fiddle-shaped leaves with thick, clasping petioles. A relative of the forage Rape called Hanover Salad (B. napa) has long been grown as a forage and green manure crop in parts of the South. Planted in late summer, Hanover salad will sprout with the fall rains and survive the winter. The plants are lower growing than true Rape and have thinner, curled or fringed, blue or purple-blue leaves.
Rutabaga - Also called Swede and Swedish Turnip, they resemble giant Turnips, except they have a long, leafy neck, smooth, bluish-green leaves and huge roots. Their roots often grow half way out of the ground. Rutabagas take a long time to mature and are intolerant of hot weather, so they are mostly grown in the cooler climates of the U.S. They can easily be stored for use in the winter.
Turnip - Varieties of Turnips are used for their roots, their leaves, or both. The root may be white, white and purple, or yellow. The leaves are medium green and rough. They are tender when they are young and ready to harvest 45 to 60 days after planting.
Hope this information is helpful!
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