Cabbage: Varieties and Groups

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About
The categorization and nomenclature of brassicas have been difficult, and rival systems have found favour at different times. Attempts in the 20th century to introduce order into what is essentially an unruly scene have involved the creation of what are called Groups. By this device, reflected in some of the names below, a main variety of a species can be subdivided at a level higher than that of commercial cultivars.

When new varieties began to be developed, one of the earliest, in the 16th century, was the red cabbage, now classified as B. oleracea var capitata, Rubra group. It was followed by many types of loose-leafed cabbage, light or dark green and sometimes tinged with red or purple. The increasing number of varieties made it possible to extend the growing season from the first spring greens, picked before a head has formed, to winter’s end.