Vegetable Photos #1

Wayne's Word Index Noteworthy Plants Trivia Lemnaceae Biology 101 Botany Scenic Wildflowers Trains Spiders & Insects Search
Economic Plant Photographs #11: Mustards & Onions

Kohlrabi, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Turnip, Cabbage, Radish,
Rutabaga, Brussels Sprouts, Bok Choy, Maca, Onion & Leek

Mustard Family (Cruciferae or Brassicaceae)

Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea), a cabbage variety with an enlarged basal stem above the ground. The following vegetables are also varieties of B. oleracea: cabbage (leafy head), kale (non-heading leafy sprout), collards (nonheading leafy sprout), broccoli (immature inflorescence and stalk or peduncle), cauliflower (immature inflorescence), brussels sprouts (tall-stemmed cabbage with small edible heads or buds along the stem). All of these varieties have 9 chromosomes per haploid set (n=9), with a diploid number of 18 (2n=18). A hybrid between broccoli and cauliflower is called broccoflower (see next photo).

Varieties of Brassica oleracea: A. Broccoli, B. Broccoflower and C. Cauliflower. Broccoflower (B) is a hybrid between broccoli (A) and cauliflower (C). In all three vegetables you are eating the immature inflorescence (flower buds and pedicels), and in the case of broccoli, the main inflorescence stalk or peduncle.

Brussels Sprouts, another variety of Brassica oleracea growing on the Hawaian island of Kauai. This variety is grown for the tender, leafy buds along the main stem that resemble miniature heads of cabbage. This unusual variety was apparently selected from a mutant cabbage plant originally discovered in a European garden in the mid 1700s.

A: Turnip (Brassica rapa), a vegetable with edible taproot and leaves (turnip greens); C: Cabbage (Brassica oleracea), a vegetable with edible leafy heads; B: Rutabaga (Brassica napobrassica), a vegetable with edible taproot and leafy greens. The rutabaga is a fertile tetraploid hybrid between the turnip (n=10) and cabbage (n=9). Since the original diploid rutabaga (2n=19) has 10 turnip chromosomes and 9 cabbage chromosomes that are unequal in number (10 + 9) and not truly homologous, the diploid hybrid is sterile. It cannot undergo normal pairing of chromosome doublets during synapsis of meiosis I, and therefore cannot produce viable gametes or seeds. The fertile tetraploid hybrid (4n=38) has 2 haploid sets of turnip chromosomes (10 + 10) and 2 haploid sets of cabbage chromosomes (9 + 9) that can pair up normally during meiosis I.

Cabbage (Brassica oleracea) in San Pasqual Valley. In the distance are strawberries.

Bok choy (pak-choi), a leafy variety of field mustard belonging to the Chinensis Group of Brassica rapa. This mustard is commonly cultivated in Asian countries.

The radish (Raphanus sativus) produces a crisp, edible taproot with many varieties, including white & red radishes, and giant oriental radishes 4 feet long and 40 pounds. The wild radish is a very common spring weed in San Diego County. Note: The bigeneric hybrid (Raphanobrassica) or Rabbage is a cross between the radish (Raphanus n=9) and cabbage (Brassica n=9). The diploid hybrid has two sets of chromosomes, one set (R) from the radish parent and one set (C) from the cabbage parent. [Note: The word "set" is defined here as one haploid (n) set of chromosomes.] Since each set includes 9 chromosomes, the diploid rabbage has a total of 18 chromosomes. The diploid hybrid (RC) is sterile because the radish and cabbage sets of chromosomes are not completely homologous, and fail to pair up during synapsis of meiosis I. A fertile tetraploid (4n=36) hybrid (RRCC) has also been developed. It produces viable gametes and seeds because the radish chromosomes have another radish set to pair up with (RR), and the cabbage chromosomes have another set to pair up with (CC). Unfortunately this wonder plant has the leaves of the radish and the roots of the cabbage.

The massive taproot of wild radish (Raphanus sativus), a common naturalized weed in San Diego County, California. Unlike the numerous, tender, cultivated varieties of radishes, wild radish has a tough, woody taproot that is unpalatable.

Red radishes, a popular cultivar of Raphanus sativus. There are literally dozens of varieties of this wild mustard relative, including annuals with crispy round and elongate taproots in a variety of colors. Some of the varieties include Cherry Belle, Crimson Giant, White Chinese, Scarlet Globe and Scarlet White-tipped.

The massive taproot of daikon or Japanese radish, a cultivated variety of Raphanus sativus. This large, white-skinned, Asian radish belongs to the Longipinnatus group of Raphanus sativus. The daikon is a popular vegetable in Asia and is commonly seen in markets. In Japan, daikons are cooked in soups, grated and eaten with sashimi (raw fish), and pickled. Pickled daikons are called "takuan" in Japan. The green paste which is the essential condiment for sashimi comes from the fleshy rhizome of wasabi (Eutrema wasabi), another member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae). It is often called Japanese horseradish, not to be confused with ordinary horseradish (Armoracia rusticana).

Sections from the large taproot of horseradish (Armoracia rusticana), also listed in some references as A. lapathifolia. The roots are the key ingredient in horseradish sauce, a spicy flavoring for meats and vegetables. The green paste which is the essential condiment for sashimi comes from the fleshy rhizome of wasabi (Eutrema wasabi), another member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae). It is often called Japanese horseradish, not to be confused with ordinary horseradish shown in the above photo.

Wasabi: A spicy green paste made from the fleshy rhizome of Eutrema wasabi, the essential condiment for sashimi (raw fish). Wasabi comes from yet another member of the large mustard family (Brassicaceae). It is often called Japanese horseradish, not to be confused with ordinary horseradish (Armoracia rusticana).

Left: Maca, the dried, powdered roots of Lepidium meyenii (also L. peruvianum). Maca grows wild in the Andes of South America. The cooked, radishlike taproots are made into a sweet, nutritious porridge called mazamorra. Right: Peppergrass (Lepidium nitidum), a common annual of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) native to grasslands and dry brushy slopes throughout California.

Water Cress (Nasturtium aquaticum = Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum), a naturalized European weed along creeks and streams in southern California. The edible leaves are commonly used in salads and sandwiches.

Weedy Mustards In California Used As A Vegetable In Old World

Sisymbrium officinale

Sisymbrium altissimum

Sisymbrium irio

View of deeply-divided leaves and inflorescences (racemes). The elongate siliques are ascending (facing upward). Each silique has a slender pedicel (more slender than the width of silique). The silique is not attached to a stalk (stipe) above the pedicel as in Stanleya. See illustration in Unknown #3. There are several other species within this genus in San Diego County: A mountain species has divided leaves with filiform (threadlike) leaf divisions. A coastal species has widely divergent siliques with pedicels as thick as the silique. Another species has siliques closely appressed to the stem axis.

Close-up view of a silique showing one row of seeds (ovules) along the longitudinal axis of the fruit chamber (locule). There are two chambers locules separated by a longitudinal partition (septum). Each chamber represents a separate carpel. The fruit (silique) is not distinctly flattened in cross section. You must see a species with flattened siliques in order to appreciate this characteristic. The terminal stigmatic portion is not a true beak as in mustards of the genus Brassica. See following Illustration of Brassica rapa (field mustard).

Brassica rapa = B. rapa ssp. sylvestris = B. campestris

The Mediterranean Cabbage In Escondido
Fruits Of The Mustard Family (Brassicaceae)
  Field Of Brassica rapa In North Twin Oaks Valley  

Key Traits Necessary To Identify Brassica rapa:

fl = flower   fr = fruit   pl = plant   lf = leaf   gen = generally   see JM p. 27

  1. Pl is a dicot with 4 separate petals and 4 separate sepals.
  2. One pistil per fl.
  3. Perianth composed of petals & sepals.
  4. Petals are separate.
  5. Ovary superior (above the attachment of petals sepals and stamens).
  6. Stamens 6, petals 4 and sepals 4.
  7. Lvs simple (one blade) but deeply divided. Not truly compound.
  8. Fl with radial symmetry (more than one dividing plane).
  9. Lvs basal and cauline (on stems).
  10. Fr at least 4x longer than wide. This is a true silique, not a silicle.
  11. Lf hairs simple (unbranched) or none.
  12. Fl stalk does not extend above pedicel (without stipe as in Stanleya).
  13. Calyx not urn-shaped (not Caulanthus or Streptanthus).
  14. Without bracts subtending individual flowers.
  15. Fr opening by longitudinal valves (carpels). This is not Isatis.
  16. Fr beak not prominent (not Brassica).
  17. Fr 4-sided or rounded in x.s. (not truly flattened as in Streptanthella).
  18. Seeds one row per chamber.
  19. Petals yellow (not white).
  20. Cauline lvs not clasping as in Unknown #3.
  21. Frs (siliques) ascending (facing upward) or spreading outwardly. Frs not appressed.
    One species has ascending siliques, while the other has siliques spreading outwardly.
  22. Fr linear, beak none.
  23. Upper cauline leaf divisions not threadlike.
  24. Pedicel width less than the fr width (pedicels more slender than siliques).
    One species has pedicels = to silique width (siliques up to 10 cm in length).
  25. Stem clearly branched from the base on large, mature specimens.

Another Weedy Mustard Reportedly Used As Vegetable In Italy

Rapistrum rugosum (Wild Turnip)

Rapistrum rugosum: Field in San Marcos, California. Native to Europe.

Mature silicles of Rapistrum rugosum.

  Fruits Of The Mustard Family (Brassicaceae)  

Amaryllis Family (Amaryllidaceae)

Tasty bulbs of red, white and yellow onions (Allium cepa). Onions, shallots (also A. cepa) and garlic (A. sativum) probably originated in central Asia. The leak (A. ampeloprasum or A. porrum) may have originated from the near East. They are all ancient cultivated crops, dating back nearly 2,000 years ago. In leeks, the leaf blades and basal part of the stem (bulb) are eaten, while in chives (A. schoenoprasum) only the leaves are utilized. The pungent quality of freshly cut onion bulbs that brings tears to the eyes is caused by volatile sulfide compounds that are released from the onion cells. Several oligosulfides have been identified, including methyl disulfide, dimethyl disulfide, dimethyl trisulfide, and n-propyl disulfide. When these compounds dissolve in the fluid covering the eyes, they form sulfuric acid. Tears produced by the stinging sensation only provide more water for the water-soluble sulfur compounds to dissolve in. If this is a problem for you, try submersing the bulbs in water while slicing them.

Depending on your tolerance to the eye-burning sensation of freshly-cut onions (and the quantity bulbs you need to slice), you might want to invest in a good pair of protective goggles.

The garlic (Allium sativum) is an onion relative that probably originated in central Asia. Freshly cut bulbs make an outstanding seasoning for meats, sauces and delicious "garlic bread." Garlic has also been used as a medicinal herb in Asia for centuries. Some of the sulfur-containing compounds in garlic (including allicin, diallyl disulfide & trisulfide, and ajoene) may prevent certain cancers by blocking cancer-causing mutagens produced by the body. Other compounds in garlic, such as prostaglandins, may lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension. Research has also shown that garlic extracts may retard blood clotting, slow tumor development, and reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.

Bulb and strap-shaped leaves of a fresh leek (Allium ampeloprasum), also listed in some references as A. porrum. Although it resembles an onion, this flavorful bulb is the key ingredient of potato-leek soup, enhanced with sliced mushrooms and seasoning. There are several horticultural varieties of leeks, but the original populations are thought to have originated in the Near East region.

Return To Economic Plant Families Page
Return To WAYNE'S WORD Home Page
Go To Biology GEE WHIZ TRIVIA Page