Cabbage (Brassica oleracea Capitata group)

Cabbage is a popular cultivar of the species Brassica oleracea Linne(Capitata Group) of the Family Brassicaceae (or Cruciferae) and is used as a leafy green vegetable. It is a herbaceous, biennial, dicotyledonous flowering plant distinguished by a short stem upon which is crowded a mass of leaves, usually green but in some varieties red or purplish, which while immature form a characteristic compact, globular cluster (cabbagehead).

The plant is also called head cabbage or heading cabbage, and in Scotland a bowkail, from its rounded shape. The Scots call its stalk a “castock”, and the British occasionally call its head a loaf. It is in the same genus as the turnip – Brassica rapa.

Cabbage leaves often have a delicate, powdery, waxy coating called bloom. The occasionally sharp or bitter taste of cabbage is due to glucosinolate. Cabbages are also a good source of riboflavin.

The cultivated cabbage is derived from a leafy plant called the wild mustard plant, native to theMediterranean region, where it is common along the seacoast. Also called sea cabbage and wild cabbage, it was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans; Cato the Elder praised this vegetable for its medicinal properties, declaring that “It is the cabbage that surpasses all other vegetables.” The English name derives from the Normanno-Picard caboche (head), perhaps fromboche (swelling, bump). Cabbage was developed by ongoing artificial selection for suppression of the internode length.

The only part of the plant that is normally eaten is the leafy head; more precisely, the spherical cluster of immature leaves, excluding the partially unfolded outer leaves. Cabbage is used in a variety of dishes for its naturally spicy flavor. The so-called “cabbage head” is widely consumed raw, cooked, or preserved in a great variety of dishes.

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