By Harold McGee
Like the onion family, the cabbage family is a group of formidable chemical warriors with strong flavors. It’s also a uniquely protean family. From two weedy natives of the Mediterranean and central Asia, we have managed to develop more than a dozen major crops of very different kinds: some leaves, some flowers, some stems, some seeds. Then there are a dozen or more relatives, notably the radishes and mustards (see chapter 8 for the spicy ones), and crosses between species: altogether a rich and ongoing collaboration between nature’s inventiveness and our own! Beyond the cabbage family itself, some of its distant botanical relatives share elements of its biochemistry and therefore its flavor; these include capers and papayas.