|Wild Cabbage plants|
B. oleracea is believed to have been cultivated for several thousand years. It has been bred into a wide range of cultivars, including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and more. Some of which are hardly recognisable as being members of the same genus, let alone species.
The plant is used because of its large food reserves, which are stored over the winter in its leaves. It is rich in essential nutrients including vitamin C.
The cultivars of B. oleracea are grouped into seven major cultivar groups, of which the Acephala Group remains most like the natural wild cabbage in appearance:
- Acephala Group: kale and collard greens
- Alboglabra Group: Chinese broccoli
- Botrytis Group: cauliflower, Romanesco broccoli and broccoflower
- Capitata Group: cabbage
- Gemmifera Group: brussels sprouts
- Gongylodes Group: kohlrabi
- Italica Group: broccoli
In places such as the Channel Islands and Canary Islands where the frost is minimal, and plants can grow all year round, some cultivars can grow up to 3 meters tall. These "tree cabbages" yield fresh leaves throughout the year, and the plant is not destroyed as with a normal cabbage. Their woody stalks are sometimes dried and made into walking sticks.
- Dixon, G.R. (2007), Vegetable brassicas and related crucifers, Wallingford: CABI, ISBN 9780851993959
- Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf 2000. Domestication of plants in the Old World. 3rd ed, Oxford: Oxford University Press. p199
- Williams, Paul H.; Hill, Curtis B. (June 13, 1986), "Rapid-cycling populations of Brassica" (pdf), Science, New Series (American Association for the Advancement of Science) 232 (4756): 1385–1389, doi:10.1126/science.232.4756.1385, PMID 17828914