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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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cabbage Brassica oleracea, var capitata, the first cultivated vegetable in the diverse genus Brassica, is the ancestor of most of its numerous relations such as cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

The original wild plant, known as wild or sea cabbage, still grows in some coastal areas of Europe, is occasionally gathered and eaten, and has a cabbagy flavour. However, it is a spindly plant with few leaves and no ‘head’. Indeed, it is more like kale, another of its descendants. Other wild brassicas grow around the eastern end of the Mediterranean and in the Balearic Isles. These and the wild ancestors of our mustard plants were no doubt interbred with wild cabbage during the early stages of its cultivation.