The extraordinary diversity of Brassica oleracea

argylesock says… Brassicas are superb crops. Here in Britain we can harvest at least one kind of brassica every day of the year. My ‘Crop of the Month’ series has covered the Brussels sprout already and I find that next month, I’ll be spoiled for choice. I might write about purple sprouting broccoli, savoy cabbage, winter cauliflower…

[Edit] My fellow blogger Theresa Green at Everyday Nature Trails tells us of the beauty and wonder of wild cabbage.

The Botanist in the Kitchen

Jeanne turns her frustration with caterpillars in her garden into an exploration of the botany behind an extraordinary species:  Brassica oleracea.

White cabbage butterflies (Lepidoptera: Pieris rapae) decimated the fall kale crop in our garden.  To be fair, the abundant green caterpillars did not consume the entire blade of every leaf.  The remaining nibbled leaves, however, in my husband’s view, no longer resembled food so much as a caterpillar farm that would be tedious to turn into food.  He ripped out the caterpillar farm, threw it on the compost bin, and replaced it with lettuce.  Unlike kale, which is in the mustard family (Brassicaceae), lettuce is in the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and is therefore not even remotely attractive to white cabbage butterflies.

I was tempted to save the hole-riddled leaves from their compost fate, in part because I know that the munching of the caterpillars actually increased the foliar…

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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3 Responses to The extraordinary diversity of Brassica oleracea

  1. EqFe says:

    Popular, tasty and nutritious, and a thorn in my side when if comes to crop rotation. The nightshade and brassica families are so popular with my family, that it would be easy to have 40% of my garden planted to the former and 30% to the latter, which makes a four year rotation for disease prevention quite hard.
    On the other hand, I’ve never grown sprouting broccioli or winter cauliflower.

    • argylesock says:

      How frustrating. So what do you do with your rotation? Considering that you move plots each year (if I understand correctly) I’m surprised that you do rotation at all.

      • EqFe says:

        It’s not that I necessarily move plots each year, it’s more that the water is turned off Nov 1 and it’s plowed over in the end of March and we have growing season leases. Early Feb I get to renew my lease of my initial four 500 square foot plots, and then a few weeks later can rent a few more if they are available. I have to rotatate with my core plots, and fifure out what was grown in the other plots that I’m renting.

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