Cabbage Flowers & Pods
Development of cabbages (Brassicaceae (formerly Cruciferae)) with large heads of flowers was by Italian farmers, broccoli probably from Roman times and Cauliflower during the Renaissance. Today they are grown through much of the temperate world, with cauliflower particularly favored in India.
More on the Cabbage Family.
General & History
Most cabbages have small clusters of flowers on tall spindly or fleshy stems, but plant breeders, starting in Roman times, have coaxed some into producing huge densely packed flower heads which are highly edible when immature. If they are allowed to mature and the flowers open they become bitter. The flowers in the main head are sterile, but once the big head is cut, if the plant is left to mature, the stem will sprout small flower heads that are fertile and produce seeds, used to grow the next generation.Varieties
Radish Seed Pods -
[Mogri (India); Raphanus sativa]
Special varieties of radish are grown for their seed pods rather than
their roots, particularly in India and Germany. These may be eaten
either cooked or raw. In India they are usually cooked as a lightly
spicy vegetable. In Germany they are often served in salads or as an
accompaniment for beer. The European rat-tailed radish grows pods up
to 8 inches long, but the photo specimens were from an Indian market
in Los Angeles, and the longest was about 3 inches long and 0.310 inch
Broccoli Calabrese -
[Broccoli; Brócolis americano (Brazil); B. Brassica
oleracea Group Italica]
Broccoli was probably known in Roman times, though it probably
looked much more like the Heirloom Broccoli (next down). It continued to
be developed by growers to produce the large flower heads we know today.
These heads are harvested and eaten well before maturity because they
will open into yellow flowers and become mushy and bitter. Broccoli
stems are also quite edible, though older and tougher ones may need to
be peeled, and leaves are edible too. Like other cabbages, broccoli is
high in fiber, vitamin C, antioxidants and is suspected of significant
anticancer benefits. The photo specimens were about 5-1/2 inches
across, 5-1/2 inches long and weighed 13 ounces. Broccoli is often
sold in narrower heads and/or with longer stems.
Details and Cooking.
Broccoli Calabrese - Heirloom
- [B. Brassica oleracea Group Italica]
This leafy, small headed variety is probably similar to those known in Roman times. The stems are thin and quite tender so the whole bunch can be used. These were purchased from a specialty grower in Southern California who does a lot of business in greens.
Actually, with some
heading heirloom types are, once the central head is harvested, the
plants are knocked down. They then send up plenty of side sprouts
similar to these. The side sprouts are generally enjoyed by the growers
and do not reach the markets.
Baby Broccoli -
Brocolinitm, Sweet Baby Broccoli
tm, Tenderstemtm Broccoli,
Aspabroctm, Brócolis (Brazil);
Brassica oleracea, Italica Group x Alboglabra Group]
This is a hybrid between Chinese Broccoli and regular Calabrese broccoli. It was produced by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohama, Japan, under the name "Aspabroc". It is now marketed under a number of trademarked names. Oddly, in Brazil this is the normal broccoli, with our regular Calabrese broccoli called brócolis americano and sold at a higher price.
This broccoli can now be found in most well stocked supermarkets in
North America, sold in bunches of less than 1/2 pound at yuppified
prices (around 2012 US $7.00 per pound - yuppies will pay the big bucks
for anything labeled "baby"). It can easily be told from other
thin stemmed varieties by it's almost total lack of leaves. The stems
are reasonably tender and edible. This is a characteristic of Chinese
broccoli, but this hybrid has larger flower heads and is
less leafy. Being a hybrid of broccoli x broccoli, it tastes pretty
much like broccoli, but I'm sticking with regular broccoli and Chinese
broccoli, both of which I can buy for well under 2014 US $1.00 per
pound. (Update) One of my usual multi-ethnic markets has started
selling this as "Brocolini" at a more reasonable 2014 US $1.33 per pound.
[Brassica oleracea Group ????]
[Brassica oleracea Group Botrytis??]
Is it a cauliflower or a broccoli? It's origin is uncertain so plant
geneticists aren't sure. One thing is certain, it's not a cross between a
cauliflower and a broccoli because the two are sexually incompatible (see
Brocciflower). The "curd" is
medium green, a bit looser than regular cauliflower and it's a bit
stemmier. The photo specimen was 6 inches across and weighed 1 pound 4-1/2
ounces. Without leaves and their stems it weighed 13 ounces (63% yield).
Taste is considered somewhat lighter and sweeter than regular cauliflower
but it's also much easier to overcook.
[Brassica oleracea Group Botrytis]
This cabbage grows a huge cluster of flower buds that never mature. Called the "curd", this cluster may be white, lime green or orange depending on variety and how it's grown. For white varieties, leaves are tied over the curd to protect it from the sun so it will remain white and mild in flavor. The orange variety is actually a cross between a wild swamp growing mutant found in Canada and a regular white cauliflower - it has many times the vitamin A content of white cauliflower.
While cauliflower curd is sterile and will never produce seeds, a plant left to grow after the big flower head is cut will eventually develop side branches with viable flowers and seeds, which is how cauliflower is propagated. Cauliflower leaves are used in some cuisines, but are never available in North American supermarkets or even farmer's markets, at least not around here.
This is probably pretty much what European cauliflower looked like in the time of the Roman Empire. Selective breeding during Medieval and Renaissance times developed the heavy, pure white curd cauliflower we enjoy today.
The taste of this vegetable is very much that of cauliflower, but
significantly more assertive than our regular white cauliflower - less
of a blank canvas and more of a feature flavor. Raw, it is a little
bitter, but not objectionably so, and the bitterness fades with
Details and Cooking.
Purple Cauliflower -
[Brassica oleracea Group Italica]
It looks like a cauliflower but the ISHS says it's a broccoli (see under
Romanesco). In any case it's got a case of anthocyanin
pigments, an antioxidant found also in red cabbage and red wine.
Romanesco Cauliflower -
[Fractal Broccoli; Chou Romanesco (French); Broccolo romanesco,
Cavolo romanesco (Italian); Pyramidenblumenkohl(German);
Brassica oleracea Group Botrytis]
This flowering cabbage is a stunning example of how nature encodes large amounts of genetic information in a mathematical form called fractals. The head is a cone, made up of spirals of smaller but otherwise identical spiral cones, which are in turn made up of smaller spiral cones, ad infinitum. Actually all cauliflowers are built pretty much this way, it just isn't so clear and orderly.
Although first reported from Italy in the 16th century, acceptance of
this variety has been held back by a fierce dispute as to whether it is
a broccoli or a cauliflower - but now the ISHS (International Society for
Horticultural Science) has declared from extensive analysis that it is
Cauliflower. So there, now you can eat it, if you can afford it - but
take care, it reacts very poorly to over-cooking. Steam until just tender.
Details and Cooking.
Both broccoli and cauliflower are considered highly nutritious and packed with vitamins, minerals, and a very high antioxidant content. They are considered to offer some of the most effective anti-cancer benefits known.Links