Brassica (//) is a genus of plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). The members of the genus are informally known as cruciferous vegetables, cabbages, or mustard plant. Crops from this genus are sometimes called cole crops—derived from the Latin caulis, meaning stem or cabbage.
Members of brassica commonly used for food include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and some seeds. The genus is known for its important agricultural and horticultural crops and includes a number of weeds, both of wild taxa and escapees from cultivation. It counts over 30 wild species and hybrids plus numerous cultivars and hybrids of cultivated origin. Most are seasonal plants (annuals or biennials), but some are small shrubs. Brassica plants have been the subject of much scientific interest for their agricultural importance. Six particularly species (B. carinata, B. juncea, B. oleracea, B. napus, B. nigra and B. rapa) evolved by the combining of chromosomes from three earlier species, as described by the Triangle of U theory.
A dislike for cabbage or broccoli can result from the fact that these plants contain a compound similar to phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), which is bitter or tasteless to some people depending on their 'taste buds'.
Almost all parts of some species or other have been developed for food, including the root (rutabaga, turnips), stems (kohlrabi), leaves (cabbage, collard greens), flowers (cauliflower, broccoli), buds (Brussels sprouts, cabbage), and seeds (many, including mustard seed, and oil-producing rapeseed). Some forms with white or purple foliage or flowerheads are also sometimes grown for ornament.
Brassica vegetables are highly regarded for their nutritional value. They provide high amounts of vitamin C and soluble fiber and contain multiple nutrients with potent anticancer properties: 3,3'-diindolylmethane, sulforaphane and selenium. Boiling reduces the level of anticancer compounds, but steaming, microwaving, and stir frying do not result in significant loss. Steaming the vegetable for three to four minutes is recommended to maximize sulforaphane.
Brassica vegetables are rich in indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells in vitro and appears to block the growth of cancer cells in vitro. They are also a good source of carotenoids, with broccoli having especially high levels. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have recently discovered that 3,3'-diindolylmethane in Brassica vegetables is a potent modulator of the innate immune response system with potent antiviral, antibacterial and anticancer activity; however, it also is an antiandrogen.
There is some disagreement among botanists on the classification and status of Brassica species and subspecies. The following is an abbreviated list, with an emphasis on economically important species.
- B. carinata: Abyssinian mustard or Abyssinian cabbage, used to produce biodiesel
- B. elongata: elongated mustard
- B. fruticulosa: Mediterranean cabbage
- B. juncea: Indian mustard, brown and leaf mustards, Sarepta mustard
- B. napus: rapeseed, canola, rutabaga (swede/Swedish turnip/swede turnip)
- B. narinosa: broadbeaked mustard
- B. nigra: black mustard
- B. oleracea: kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kai-lan, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi
- B. perviridis: tender green, mustard spinach
- B. rapa (syn B. campestris): Chinese cabbage, turnip, rapini, komatsuna
- B. rupestris: brown mustard
- B. septiceps: seventop turnip
- B. tournefortii: Asian mustard
Other species formerly placed in Brassica
- B. kaber (wild mustard or charlock)—see Sinapis arvensis
- B. alba or B. hirta (white or yellow mustard)—see Sinapis alba
- B. geniculata (hoary mustard)—see Hirschfeldia incana
Genome sequencing and genetics
Bayer CropScience (in collaboration with BGI-Shenzhen, China, Keygene N.V., the Netherlands and the University of Queensland, Australia) announced it had sequenced the entire genome of rapeseed/canola (Brassica napus) and its constituent genomes present in B. rapa and B. oleracea in 2009. The B. rapa genome was sequenced by the Multinational Brassica Genome Project in 2011. This also represents the A genome component of the amphidiploid crop species B. napus and B. juncea.
- Cruciferous vegetables for more edible plants of the Brassicaceae family.
- Gene nomenclature
- Mustard plant
- Triangle of U
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