Have you heard of the plant named Brassica oleracea? I am sure you have eaten it before. There are 6 vegetables that are commonly found in the grocery stores that are actually from this one plant. For many years, farmers bred Brasicca olercea into six different varieties that became the common vegetables that we consume. Another name for Brassica is wild mustard plant.
The original wild plant is a weedy herb that usually grows on limestone outcropping the coastal Mediterranean area. The wild plant has a lifespan of about two years and that it uses food reserves which were stored over the winter in its leaves to produce a few yellow flowers during late second summer before reaching the end of its life. The nutritious leaves are what makes its domesticated varieties an important food crops.
Brassica oleracea was selectively bred over many years to create wildly different vegetables. The selection process allowed to breed plants with larger leaves or bigger buds resulting in many different subspecies of the plant.
Below are the common vegetables we know that came from the wild Brassica oleracea.
Kale, collard greens, and Chinese broccoli: These were created by making the leaves of the ancestor plant bigger. Collard greens were domesticated in Europe. Chinese broccoli was developed in China.
Red, green, and savoy cabbages: These were created from a kale variety by selecting for a large terminal bud. The leaves are wound around a short, wide stem or cabbage’s core.
Brussels sprouts: These are known as tiny cabbages except they grow from the buds along the stem of the plant.
Kohlrabi: This was created by selecting a thicker stalk in a kale plant.
Broccoli: This was created from a kale predecessor by selecting for a larger flower clusters which are harvested before the blooming process.
Cauliflower: This was developed from one of hundreds of broccoli varieties.
Humans have been genetically improving food for much longer than we have been creating of what is now known as genetically modified foods. These novel laboratory techniques just let us do it in a more precise and accurate way.