Brassica

Brassica

[bras-i-kuh]

Brassica (Brás-si-ca) is a genus of plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). The members of the genus may be collectively known either as cabbages, or as mustards. Crops from this genus are sometimes called cole crops, which is derived from the Latin caulis, meaning cabbage.

This genus is remarkable for containing more important agricultural and horticultural crops than any other genus. It also includes a number of weeds, both wild taxa and escapees from cultivation. It includes over 30 wild species and hybrids, and numerous additional cultivars and hybrids of cultivated origin. Most are annuals or biennials, but some are small shrubs.

The genus is native in the wild in western Europe, the Mediterranean and temperate regions of Asia. In addition to the cultivated species, which are grown worldwide, many of the wild species grow as weeds, especially in North America, South America, and Australia.

Uses

Food

Almost all parts of some species or other have been developed for food, including the root (swedes, turnips), stems (kohlrabi), leaves (cabbage, brussels sprouts), flowers (cauliflower, broccoli), and seeds (many, including mustard seed, oilseed rape). Some forms with white or purple foliage or flowerheads, are also sometimes grown for ornament.

Brassica species are sometimes used as food plants by the larvae of a number of Lepidoptera species - see List of Lepidoptera that feed on Brassica.

Due to their agricultural importance, Brassica plants have been the subject of much scientific interest. The close relationship between 6 particularly important species (Brassica carinata, B. juncea, B. oleracea, B. napus, B. nigra and B. rapa) is described by the Triangle of U theory.

Medicine

Brassica vegetables are highly regarded for their nutritional value. They provide high amounts of vitamin C and soluble fiber and contain multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties: 3,3'-Diindolylmethane, sulforaphane and selenium.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have recently discovered that 3,3'-Diindolylmethane in Brassica vegetables is a potent modulator of the innate immune response system with potent anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activity.

Species

There is some disagreement among botanists on the classification and status of Brassica species and subspecies. The following is an abbreviated list, with an emphasis on economically important species.

Deprecated species names

Genome sequencing and genetics

The B. rapa genome is currently being sequenced by an international consortium. This also represents the A genome component of the amphidiploid crop species B. napus and B. juncea .

See also

References

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