Main types of Bras­si­cas

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - Local Dirt -


Cab­bage comes in many forms and colours: white, green, red, round, flat, pointed, savoyed, Chi­nese, etc. Cab­bage can be grown nearly year-round in warmer cli­mates; del­i­cately tex­tured early spring cab­bages, sweet and tasty pointed cab­bages, bolder sum­mer cab­bages, and hardy win­ter cab­bage. The early spring and sum­mer types are at­trac­tive to mod­ern con­sumers as they have small heads (no waste) and can be eaten raw or just lightly cooked. Savoy cab­bage is best eaten cooked; it de­vel­ops a lovely sweet­ness and bril­liant fresh color after steam­ing for just a few min­utes.

Pak Choi

Pak Choi, a.k.a. Bok Choi, is closely re­lated to the Chi­nese/napa cab­bage but has a very dif­fer­ent ap­pear­ance. The stems are thick and juicy and grow up­right like cel­ery. Both the stem and leaves can be chopped for use in stir fry or sal­ads.


Cau­li­flower plants pre­fer to grow with­out heat stress and do best in fall or in ar­eas with mild sum­mers. Pop­u­lar types in­clude the stan­dard white va­ri­eties and more ex­otic col­ors and shapes are also avail­able to home gardeners. In re­cent years cooked cau­li­flower has be­come pop­u­lar as a re­place­ment for pota­toes or flour in many recipes (like mashed pota­toes or pizza crust — see our gar­den fresh recipe).

Ro­manesco types are a spe­cial type of green cau­li­flower. The head is a col­lec­tion of spi­raled flo­rets and will be a great way to teach your kids about the Fi­bonacci num­bers (math dur­ing din­ner!). Ro­manesco is great for roast­ing — it is a bit drier than reg­u­lar cau­li­flower.

Nov­elty Types are also a lot of fun for the gar­den. Try a pur­ple or or­ange va­ri­ety! They have a sim­i­lar flavour but add an un­ex­pected pop of colour to a veg­gie tray.


Broc­coli, like cau­li­flower, is har­vested in the early flow­er­ing stage. The plants will want to move along and form flow­ers, so be sure to har­vest while the buds are still closed and tight. Broc­coli flo­rets are an easy way to get your nu­tri­tion but don’t for­get about the stalk. The peeled stalk has very good fla­vor and tex­ture — very sim­i­lar to kohlrabi sticks. And don’t for­get about the baby broc­coli, seen in gro­cery stores un­der the brand name of Broccolini but also avail­able as seed for the home gar­dener. Another broc­coli rel­a­tive is the Ital­ian heir­loom broc­coli raab.

Broc­coli likes rich soil which in­cludes ni­tro­gen and cal­cium and prefers cool weather so plant it in early spring or late sum­mer for a fall har­vest. It can also be planted in fall to over­win­ter in ar­eas with mild win­ter weather.

Baby broc­coli seed has be­come avail­able to home gardeners in re­cent years. Pinch the main head out when it is the size of a nickel so that your plant sends out the ten­der stemmed side shoots. Reg­u­lar har­vest­ing will in­crease yield. Broc­coli Raab is an heir­loom type, har­vested when flo­rets are very small and ten­der. Like baby broc­coli, reg­u­lar har­vest­ing will in­crease over­all all yield. Broc­coli raab ma­tures quickly so keep an eye on it.

Brussels Sprouts

Some say that Brussels Sprouts are the new kale and they in­deed have all the same health benefits that kale pro­vides. Brussels sprouts are per­fect for roast­ing (to­gether with beets, car­rots, and cau­li­flower), on the BBQ (skewer), or in a good stew or finely shred­ded for salad. Se­lect good va­ri­eties for the home gar­den that do not have to be “topped.” By re­mov­ing the grow­ing point of the plant (“top­ping”), you can stim­u­late the development of the Sprouts (side shoots) for an ear­lier har­vest. The top of the plant is also de­li­cious when wilted in some olive oil with gar­lic, and dressed with some bal­samic vine­gar. Tasty! How about a nice stalk with per­fect sprouts as a gift for the Thanks­giv­ing host? Brussels sprouts are best planted in the late sum­mer for a fall har­vest.


Col­lards look like a flat-leaved ver­sion of kale, but col­lards are ac­tu­ally just big leafy cab­bage plants that don’t make a head! The nu­tri­ent con­tent of col­lards is very sim­i­lar to that of kale, and so they are in­ter­change­able in many recipes. Col­lards have been tra­di­tion­ally stewed (with a ham bone for added fla­vor and nu­tri­tion), but in re­cent years have been used for ev­ery­thing from sal­ads to wraps to chips. They are easy to grow, and leaves can be reg­u­larly cut so that the plant pro­duces more. They pre­fer tem­pera-

tures un­der 90 de­grees and are best planted in the spring or fall ex­cept in mild-sum­mer re­gions.

Vates and Ge­or­gia types have smooth, medium green leaves (best for wraps), and up­right plants that re­grow quickly. Look to hy­brids for im­proved yield (less stem, fastest re­growth) and bolt tol­er­ance.

Cham­pion types have a slightly savoyed/waxy leaf (best for chips). They are of­ten a darker green or dark blue green. The plants are smaller and more cold tol­er­ant than the other types. Look to hy­brids for higher yield, quicker ma­tu­rity, and im­proved bolt tol­er­ance.


Kale made it to the top of the ANDI list (Ag­gre­gate Nu­tri­ent Den­sity In­dex), and now you can find kale ev­ery­where. Kale is just about the eas­i­est to grow of all the Bras­si­cas and can be har­vested con­tin­u­ously by just har­vest­ing the lower leaves while the top leaves keep grow­ing. Kale is easy to cook with and be­comes ten­der if you chop it, knead it with a lit­tle oil and vine­gar and mari­nade for a few min­utes be­fore serv­ing.

Curly-leaf types have a better cold, and frost tol­er­ance, a bit of frost will ten­der­ize the leaves and make them sweeter. You can also put your kale in the freezer overnight to get the same ef­fect.

La­ci­nato (Di­nosaur) types have deep blue-green, sword-shaped leaves and are mild tast­ing in the sum­mer and fall and yet are very cold tol­er­ant as well. They are a key in­gre­di­ent in many Ital­ian soups and make great chips.

Rus­sian types are mild in the sum­mer and also cold tol­er­ant. They can over­win­ter in mild ar­eas.

And don’t for­get about Tronchuda or Por­tuguese types, the cru­cial in­gre­di­ent in Por­tuguese Kale Soup (Caldo Verde).


The first writ­ten men­tion of Kohlrabi was made by Dutch botanist Rem­brant Do­doens in 1554. Kohlrabi has long been pop­u­lar in Europe, back to the Ro­man Em­pire, but even­tu­ally found its way onto Amer­i­can ta­bles, per­haps with French set­tlers around 1900. Com­mer­cial cul­ti­va­tion be­gan in Cal­i­for­nia in the 1920’s, and Cal­i­for­nia re­mains the pri­mary pro­duc­tion area due to the cool, foggy weather in coastal re­gions. Open-pol­li­nated and stan­dard size va­ri­eties are best con­sumed while still small (like a base­ball). Gi­ant hy­brid va­ri­eties main­tain nice in­ter­nal tex­ture and can be al­lowed to grow big­ger. Gi­ant types can makes heads the size of bowl­ing balls! Stan­dard types are best har­vested at base­ball size or smaller.


The hum­ble Radish gets much less at­ten­tion than it de­serves. Easy to grow, ma­tur­ing quickly, and grow­ing

nearly year round in some ar­eas radishes add crunch and color to sal­ads and veg­etable trays and play an im­por­tant part in tra­di­tional spring meals in Europe and North America. Asian soups get some quick color with the ad­di­tion of a thinly sliced radish and In­dian flat breads called mooli paratha use grated radish for a pop of flavour and colour. Radish grows best when sown di­rectly into the soil.

Red Round Types grow quickly and make a great first veg­etable for kids to grow. Plant when cool and wa­ter evenly for mild fla­vored roots. Heat and stress cause early bolt­ing. Hy­brids are more uni­form in size and ma­tu­rity.

Nov­elty types come in many shapes and colours. French break­fast is nice sliced thin and served with sea salt on tiny but­tered toasts. Wa­ter­melon types ma­ture a lit­tle later but are worth the wait! They should be sliced with a man­dolin and served on sal­ads. Daikon is used for pick­les and stores well. Easter Egg types are brightly col­ored and fun for kids.


Rutaba­gas are a cross be­tween a turnip and a wild cab­bage. They trace back to the mid­dle ages and were used in cat­tle fod­der and only eaten in times of hard­ship. They re­quire cold con­di­tions be­fore har­vest for max­i­mum sweet­ness and store well. Most va­ri­eties have roots with a pur­ple top and creamy white/yel­low bot­tom.

Radishes are colour­ful ad­di­tions to sal­ads and more.

La­ci­nato Kale, also known as di­nosaur kale.

Kale Dark­i­bor.

Kohlrabi Korist tastes great grated in coleslaw or steamed.

Broc­coli is a great for fresh eat­ing or steam­ing.

Brussels sprouts re­quire care from in­sects.

Col­lard Tiger hy­brid, use like cab­bage.

Rutabaga Lau­ren­tian.

Por­tugese kale.

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