Brassica is a genus of plants in the cabbage and mustard family. The members of the genus are informally known as cruciferous vegetables, cabbages, or mustard plants. Crops from this genus are sometimes called cole crops—derived from the Latin caulis, denoting the stem or stalk of a plant. Commonly known brassicas include broccoli, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower.

Burgundy broccoli in the field

SEASONAL in Southern California

Broccoli

Thanks to its myriad nutritional benefits, broccoli has been regarded a “health food” since the Roman Empire. It is also one of the world’s most controversial vegetables, not only because of the strong smell and bitter flavor that results from overcooking, but also due to racial profiling against the Italian immigrants who brought it to the United States. But thanks to the growing movement toward healthy eating, broccoli is now commonly cited as a favorite vegetable among children as well as adults.

Cabbage

One of the first wild plants to be domesticated by ancient farmers, the cabbage has been bred into over 400 modern varieties. Its adaptability to a variety of climates, as well as its ease of storage, have made it a mainstay of peasant food, and likely helped incorporate the cabbage into the folklore of many cultures around the world.

Cauliflower

This brassica vegetable gets its name from the Italian term cavolfiore, or “cabbage flower.” Historically, only the head of tiny florets (known as “curds”) has been eaten, but more recent cultivars have been bred for tender, sweeter stems. While its appearance is similar to broccoli, cauliflower’s taste is much subtler, with a nutty sweetness that is amplified when roasted.

Kale

A descendant of wild cabbage, kale gets its name from the word caulis, a general Greco-Roman term that referred to any plant in the cabbage family. Its hardiness under cold conditions made kale particularly popular in northern Asia, Europe, and the British Isles. In Scotland, it was such a dietary mainstay that the word kale became a synonym for food.

Kohlrabi

With a peculiar shape and a name to match, kohlrabi is one of the least familiar vegetables in the western world, defying classification since the 16th century. Nevertheless, its surprising taste (reminiscent of both cucumber and broccoli), crisp texture (similar to jicama), and many uses have transformed kohlrabi into a “best-kept secret” among farmers and cooks.

Turnip

One of the oldest cultivated vegetables in agricultural history, this humble root vegetable is the original superfood. Once a standby of gardens (and kitchens) around the world, the turnip is regaining popularity among today’s generation of farmers thanks to its easy method of growing, long storage life, and adaptability to any dish.

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