INTERESTING COOL CROPS
Dr. Leonard Perry,
University of Vermont
and kale grow best in cool
times of the growing season, are among the hardiest vegetables, are
and are nutritious. With all this going
for them, they have been named vegetables of the year for 2007 by the
Garden Bureau. This organization has
provided some interesting facts on their origins and the types
Some of the earliest records of
cabbages and kales date back to the Greeks and Romans, who brought
the Black Sea region.
There, the Slavs were recorded growing them
in the 9th century. From
there these crops moved into Russia
where they became a staple food and highly regarded. Princes
ranked them as gifts along with racing
horses and jewels.
Kale originally came from the eastern
Mediterranean area and Asia Minor,
was a food crop since at least 2000 B.C.
In 350 B.C., Theophrastus described a savoyed form of kale.
Cabbage became a popular food plant
in western Europe due to the Celts, with the first written record in
century of “white” or hard-heading cabbage.
The scientific name for cabbages (Brassica) actually
the Celtic word “bresic” for this plant.
In the 14th century in England,
records distinguished between heading and non-heading kale, then called
“coleworts.” Kale was the most common
green vegetable in Europe
during the middle ages. In the 15th
century in England,
are found of the loose-heading “Savoy”
cabbages, named for the Italian province.
Red cabbage was first recorded in England in 1570.
Cabbages were brought to the New World by
the colonists from England,
with the first written
record of them in 1669. By the 1700s,
cabbage was grown widespread by both colonists and native peoples. The first record of cabbage in Canada
1542, planted by Jacques Cartier on his third voyage. Russian
kale was brought to Canada
(and then the U.S.)
by Russian traders in the
Chinese cabbage has been cultivated and
grown in Asia from earliest times,
is not mentioned in Chinese literature until the 5th century. It was
from China to Japan in the 1860s; in the 1880s and
immigrant laborers brought it to America.
Although the scientific genus name
for cabbages comes from the Celts, the common name comes from the
“caboche” meaning head. This was used to
refer to both heading and loose-leaf types.
Kale is a Scottish word that comes from either the Greek “coles”
Roman “caulis”, referring to this whole group of plants.
Both cabbage and kale share the same
scientific name (Brassica oleracea), with the modern
varieties in the Capitata (meaning head) group, and kale in the
(meaning non-heading) group. Chinese
cabbage is more closely related to mustard than cabbage, so is in a
species (campestris) and Pekinensis group. All,
however, are in the cabbage family (Brassicaceae).
This family may be seen by its older name (Cruciferae),
which gives rise to the often seen name “crucifers” for these plants. Other relatives in this family include
broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower.
You may even find crosses among them, such as “broccolini”—a
between broccoli and Chinese kale.
Most cabbages are in the head, or
Capitata, group with three main types: smooth, green leaves; smooth,
leaves; and Savoy,
with their crinkled or “savoyed” leaves which make them attractive in
gardens. They are are sweeter with a
more delicate flavor than green cabbages.
Outer leaves are generally deep green, lightening to pale green inner.
cabbage type can be described further by head shape (such as rounded or
and harvest time.
For all, the
outer—usually darker—leaves are called wrapper leaves. Flat-headed
best for stuffing. Large, late cabbages are most flavorful and best for
Chinese cabbages (also called
Chinese celery) generally have elongated heads with broad, white-stalked,
overlapping, savoyed (crinkled) leaves with a mild to slightly sharp
cabbage, also known as “closed head”, is
the best known type of Chinese cabbage.
Leaves overlap over the top of the head.
Leaves of “open head” cabbage grow upright like Romaine lettuce. Michihili cabbages are the tallest of the
Chinese cabbages, and have narrow conical heads that blanche well.
Kales are differentiated by length
of stem and leaf type. The two main
types are the Scotch, which have gray-green and very curled or crumpled
and the Siberian types, which are blue-green and less curled. There are dwarf and tall selections of
both. There are many varieties,
including some ornamental ones from Japan, with leaf colors in
whites, and purples to almost black. You may see “curly kale” for those widely grown varieties with deep
ruffled leaves, and “dinosaur kale” for those with blue-green leaves.
Cabbage and kale prefer cooler
temperatures, so grow and taste best early and late in the season. Too hot, and these crops may not produce
heads and may flower or “bolt” instead. Kale is often grown for its
leaves in the fall, and for fall harvest as it is sweeter after a light
frost. Darker-leaved varieties of both are
quite nutritious and even may help prevent cancer.