Decorative Cabbage Brassicales

The order Brassicales has a modest number of families, just 16, not many of which are at all familiar to Americans as food (or as anything else for that matter) - except that huge culinary superstar family Brassicaceae - the Mustards, Cabbages, Turnips and Radishes. The link below will take you to the Brassicaceae page. This page contains other edible Brassicales - pretty much all of them.   Photo © i0131 .

See Brassicales Family Tree for an orderly (thought abreviaeted) layout of the order.

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Brassicaceae - Cabbages, Mustards, Turnips & Radishes
Mix of Cabbages

This huge family (Botanists call them all Mustards) accounts for most of the winter greens and root vegetables humanity has depended on to make it through 'till spring. Americans, with a seemingly limitless supply of cheap meat and potatoes, have held cabbages in disregard, but would do well to become more familiar with them for reasons of health, economy and because, properly prepared, they taste good.
Cabbage Page.

Moringa Family   -   [Moringaceae]
This is a family containing a single genus, Moringa, with about 13 species. These trees are native to northern Africa and South Asia, particularly the Himalayan foothills. Nearly all are important medicinal plants and some are important for both human and livestock nutrition. Species with swollen water storage trunks are planted as exotic decoratives. Seeds are of interest for unusually stable biodiesel fuel.

Drumstick Tree   -   [Horseradish Tree, Malunggay (Philippines), Sajina (India); Moringa oleifera]
Moringa Pods & Leaves

This fast growing tree from northern India has been planted worldwide because of it's many uses, only a few of which are as food. The name "Horseradish Tree" comes from the taste of the roots when ground, but they should not be used as a condiment because they contain serious toxins.

The main food parts are the pods (particularly in India) which may be over 18 inches long, and young leaf shoots (particularly in the Philippines and Africa). Powdered seeds are used to clarify and purify water. Many parts of this tree also have medicinal properties (the seeds are supposed to be good for erectile disfunction). Details and Cooking.

Cabbage Tree   -   [Moringa stenopetala]
Cabbage Tree Leaves

This tree, up to 39 feet high, is very similar to M. oleifera but with larger leaflets. It has been domesticated in the Ethiopian Highlands and is grown there on a system of terraces. It has recently been planted in other regions, particularly the Rift Valley. Uses are similar to M. oleifera. Powdered seeds are more effective for clarifying and purifying water than those of M. olieifera.   Photo by treesftf distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike v2.0 Generic.

Papaya Family   -   [Caricaceae]
This is a small family, formerly consisting of a single genus, Carica, but recent genetic analysis has split them up into six genera, leaving only one in the original Carica. All members of the family are technically herbs, usually with a single main stem, but they can appear to be trees, to 33 feet high.

Papaya   -   [Pawpaw, Mamao, Lechoza; Carica papaya]
Papaya Mix 08e

The only notable member of the family Caricaceae, the Papaya is of Central American origin, but now grown in tropical areas throughout the world. It is very distantly related to Cabbages, but is this plant a "branchless tree" or a giant herb? Technically it's an herb.

Unripe papayas are used in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam for their famous green papaya salads, and as a cooked vegetable in India and the Philippines. Ripe papayas are eaten as fruit and made into various fruit drinks and concoctions. They are used worldwide as meat tenderizer and digestive aid. In the photo are a medium size Mexican papaya (upper left, 10-1/2 x 5-3/4 inches 5-1/2 pounds), a typical Hawaiian papaya (lower right, 5-1/2 x 3-1/4 inches 1 pound) and an unripe "green" papaya cut in half (top right). Details and Cooking.

Mountain Papaya   -   [Mountain Pawpaw; Vasconcellea pubescens]
Tree with Mountain Papaya Fruit

This papaya relative is native to the Andes mountains of northwestern South America from Columbia to central Chile. In grows at altitudes between 5000 and 10,000 feet and can stand dryer weather and much colder temperatures than the regular papaya. The fruit can be up to 6 inches long and 3 inches diameter. Some are now being grown in the highlands of Kenya, and possibly elsewhere. It is used similarly to the regular papaya, both cooked when immature and eaten raw when fully ripe.   Photo by Michael Hermann distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike v3.0 Unported.

Babaco   -   [Vasconcellea pentagona which is a hybrid: Vasconcellea pubescens x Vasconcellea stipulata]
Basket of Babco Fruit

This hybrid can grow at altitudes even over 6500 feet, and is the most cold tolerant of the Vasconcellea species. This unbranched herb, which can grow to 26 feet high and produce 30 to 60 fruits a year, can live as long as 8 years. It bears only female flowers and seedless fruit with thin, edible skin. It has been successfully grown in California and New Zealand.   Photo by Siegert contributed to the Public Domain .

Caper Family   -   [Capparaceae]
This is a small family of shrubs native to the Mediterranean region north to central Africa and Southeast Asia.

Capers - [Capparis spinosa, also C. sicula, C. orientalis, and C. aegyptia. Australian "wild passionfruit" Capparis spinosa subspecies nummularia]
Pickled Capers

Capers are most known to Americans as pickled flower buds used as a flavoring element and garnish in salads, sauces and martinis. In the Mediterranean region, where they are native, fruits, caperberries, are also pickled, as are the leaves. The photo specimens of pickled flower buds came from two bottles, both qualifying for the top "Non-pareilles" designation, though the large ones barely squeaked by at the 7 mm / 0.276 inch maximum. The small ones were typically 4 mm or less.   Details and Cooking.

Meru   -   [Meru (Arab); Jiga (Niger); Maerua crassifolia]
Meru Plant with Fruit

This large shrub, to 32 feet tall, is native to Africa in the transition band just south of the Sahara Desert, from Senegal to Eritria (the Sahel). It is also found in Yemen, Israel and Egypt, but is nearing extinction in Egypt. It has been very important to nomadic tribes in the semi-desert regions, particularly as fodder for camels and other animals during the dry season, but has been badly overgrazed over much of its range.

The leaves are an important food for people in Senegal, Mauritania and Niger, used in soups and stews. They are bitter and slightly toxic when raw. Cooked, they taste similar to spinach, but with a much more fibrous texture. After a first cooking they are rinsed out, then pounded in a mortar to make them more tender. They are rich in protein, calcium and iron. The strange "string of beads" fruits are eaten in Mauritania, known there as eb nembe. The plant also has a number of medicinal uses.   Photo from African Plants - A Photo Guide © photographer, permission granted for non-commercial use only.

Karir   -   [Kerda, Kirir, Karril; Ker, Kair (India); Capparis decidua]
Karir Plant with Fruit

This shrub, growing to 15 feet tall, is native to arid regions of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, particularly northern India. It grows with a dense tangle of leafless branches and can tolerate intense heat and drought, and light frost. The fruits, 3/8 to 3/4 inch diameter, are blue-green when unripe, medium to bright pink when ripe. The fruits are spicy and are used as a flavoring for curries and vegetables, and are also very often pickled. Raw they are bitter, acrid and peppery, but they are tamed to piquant and zesty by cooking or pickling. Small ripe berries are preferred to large ones. Buds are also used, similarly to European capers, before they open into red flowers. The plant also has medicinal uses.   Photo by LRBurdak distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike v3.0 Unported.

Spider Plant   -   [Temple Plant, Sacred Garlic Pear, March Dalur; Salingbobog, Balai Lamok (Philippine), Crateva religiosa]
Spider Plant Flower & Leaves

This tree, up to 49 feet high, is native to most of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, and is also found in Japan and Australia. It is also grown in parts of Africa and other tropical regions for its fruit. It bears large white to light purple flowers, which smell somewhat of garlic. Fruits are oval and fairly large, to almost 6 inches long and 2-3/4 inches diameter. They have a hard rough shell, but it is easily broken to expose yellow flesh and large seeds, up to 4 inches long. Young shoots and fruit are used in curries. The fruit is used as a spice because of it's strong garlic taste. The plant has a number of medicinal uses.   Photo by Eric Guinther distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

Nasturtium Family   -   [Tropaeolaceae]
This family contains only one genus, Tropaeolum, in which there are about 80 species, but very few are familiar for food. A few are common or exotic decoratives.

Nasturtium   -   [Tropaeolum majus]
Nasturtium Flowers & Leaves Oddly, Nasturtiums don't belong to genus Nasturtium (Watercress does). This nasturtium species is known mainly as a decorative (and sometimes as an invasive weed), but the leaves are also used in salads to provide an interesting peppery taste. The flowers, which come in shades of yellow, orange and red, have a somewhat milder taste and are used to add colorful edible accents to salads. Immature flower buds are sometimes pickled as a substitute for Capers. The flavor is similar but they are usually larger. The plant has also been used medicinally.   Photo © i0132 .

Mashua   -   [Mashua (Peru, Ecuador); Mashwa, Maswallo, Mazuko; Mascho (Peru); Añu (Peru, Bolivia); Isano; Cubio (Colombia); Tropaeolum tuberosum]
Mashua Tubers

Mashua is an important food plant in the Andes region of South America because it will grow well in poor soils overgrown with weeds at very high altitudes, and is unusually resistant to pests of all kinds.

Caution:   Eating a lot of these will knock you pecker flat and flacid like a limp noodle, drastically lowering testosterone levels in the bargain - it does what saltpeter is reputed to do but doesn't.   Photo by Michael Hermann, distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v4.0 International.

Oubli   -   [Pentadiplandra brazzeana of family Pentadiplandraceae]
Oubli Fruit and Leaves

This shrub (to 16 feet high) or liana (to 66 feet long) is native to tropical Central Africa. The liana form produces a single root tuber, the shrub form has more complex roots. The fruits, which may be red or mottled gray, between 1-1/2 and 2 inches in diameter, are quite sweet and are used locally by simply sucking the flesh off the numerous seeds. The roots have many medicinal uses throughout the region, but are said to sometimes be eaten as a vegetable.

This plant came into Western notice in 1985. Since then two sweet proteins have been isolated, pentadin and brazzein. Brazzein is being studied by the food industry, being 500 to 2000 times sweeter than sugar. It will not be harvested from the berries because patented genetically modified bacteria have already been developed to produce a superior product. This sweetener cannot yet be used in the United States because it doesn't have FDA GRAS certification, and is similarly restricted in Europe.   Photo © C.M. Hladik from PROTA4U cropped and reduced, used under educational fair use.

Caylusea   -   [Caylusea abyssinica of family Resedaceae]
Blooming Caylusea Plant

This herb, native to East Africa, grows to almost 5 feet high over a tap root. The above ground parts are cooked as a vegetable in Tanzania and Ethiopia. In Tanzania tender shoots and leaves are gathered in the wild, cleaned, chopped, mixed with other vegetables, and cooked. Pounded pumpkin or hemp seeds, or peanut paste may be added. The leaves are also boiled and eaten in Ethiopia. This plant is not known to be cultivated.   Photo from Manual of the Alien Plants of Belgium distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike v3.0 Unported.

Saltwort   -   [Batis, Turtleweed, Saltwort, Beachwort, Pickleweed, Batis maritima (North America), Batis argillicola (Australia)]
Live Saltwort Plant

These very salt tolerant succulent plants inhabit tropical and subtropical shores and salt marshes. Batis maritima is found along the Pacific coast from California to Peru and the Atlantic coast from North Carolina through the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, on south to the northern tip of Brazil. It is considered an invasive only in Hawaii. Batis argillicola is found on the tropical coasts of Australia.

While not well known as food, these plants have considerable potential. Native peoples of the Americas and Australia have eaten the greens raw, cooked and pickled. Its seeds, about the size of peppercorns, have a nutty taste and have been shown high in edible protein, oils, starches and antioxidants. They can be popped like mineature popcorn. The plant can grow well in soils too salty for most food crops.   Note: While called "Saltwort", this plant is not at all related to the main group called "Saltwort", which are Amaranths. Photo by U.S. Geological Survey = public domain.

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