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Brassica rapa plant.jpg
Brassica rapa
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Brassicaceae
Tribe: Brassiceae
Genus: Brassica

See text

Brassica (/ˈbræsɪkə/) is a genus of plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). The members of the genus are informally known as cruciferous vegetables, cabbages, or mustard plants. Crops from this genus are sometimes called cole crops—derived from the Latin caulis, denoting the stem or stalk of a plant.[1]

The genus Brassica is known for its important agricultural and horticultural crops and includes a number of weeds, both of wild taxa and escapees from cultivation. Brassica species and varieties commonly used for food include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, choy sum, rutabaga, turnip and some seeds used in the production of canola oil and the condiment mustard. Over 30 wild species and hybrids are in cultivation, plus numerous cultivars and hybrids of cultivated origin. Most are seasonal plants (annuals or biennials), but some are small shrubs. Brassica plants have been the subject of much scientific interest for their agricultural importance. Six particular species (B. carinata, B. juncea, B. oleracea, B. napus, B. nigra, and B. rapa) evolved by the combining of chromosomes from three earlier species, as described by the Triangle of U theory.

The genus is native to Western Europe, the Mediterranean and temperate regions of Asia. Many wild species grow as weeds, especially in North America, South America, and Australia.

A dislike for cabbage or broccoli can result from the fact that these plants contain a compound similar to phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), which is either bitter or tasteless to people depending on their taste buds.[2]



Almost all parts of some species or other have been developed for food, including the root (rutabaga, turnip), stems (kohlrabi), leaves (cabbage, collard greens, kale), flowers (cauliflower, broccoli), buds (Brussels sprouts, cabbage), and seeds (many, including mustard seed, and oil-producing rapeseed). 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.


Brassica vegetables are highly regarded for their nutritional value. They provide high amounts of vitamin C and soluble fiber and contain nutrients with anticancer properties: 3,3'-diindolylmethane, sulforaphane and selenium.[3][4] Boiling reduces the level of anticancer compounds, but steaming, microwaving, and stir frying do not result in significant loss.[5] Steaming these vegetable for three to four minutes is recommended to maximize sulforaphane.[6]

Brassica vegetables are rich in indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells in vitro and appears to block the growth of cancer cells in vitro.[7][8] They are also a good source of carotenoids, with broccoli having especially high levels.[9] 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 antiviral, antibacterial and anticancer activity.[10] However, it also is an antiandrogen but is known to be antiandrogenic only in hormone-sensitive prostate cancer cells.[11]

These vegetables also contain goitrogens, some of which suppress thyroid function. Goitrogens can induce hypothyroidism and goiter in the absence of normal iodine intake.[12][13]


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

Species formerly placed in Brassica[edit]

Genome sequencing and genetics[edit]

Bayer CropScience (in collaboration with BGI-Shenzhen, China; Keygene N.V.; the Netherlands and the University of Queensland, Australia) announced it had sequenced the entire genome of rapeseed (canola, Brassica napus) and its constituent genomes present in B. rapa and B. oleracea in 2009.[14] The B. rapa genome was sequenced by the Multinational Brassica Genome Project in 2011.[15] This also represents the A genome component of the amphidiploid crop species B. napus and B. juncea.[16]


‘Brassica’ is Pliny's name for several cabbage-like plants.[17]


  1. ^ "caulis". Wordnik. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  2. ^ Overfield, Theresa (1995). "Phenylthiocarbamide". Biological Variations in Health and Illness: Race, Age, and Sex Differences. CRC Press. pp. 102–3. ISBN 978-0-8493-4577-7.
  3. ^ Finley, John W.; Sigrid-Keck, Anna; Robbins, Rebecca J.; Hintze, Korry J. (2005). "Selenium Enrichment of Broccoli: Interactions between Selenium and Secondary Plant Compounds". The Journal of Nutrition. 135 (5): 1236–8. doi:10.1093/jn/135.5.1236. PMID 15867310.
  4. ^ Banerjee, Sanjeev; Parasramka, Mansi A.; Sarkar, Fazlul H. (2012). "Cellular, Molecular and Biological Insight into Chemopreventive and Therapeutic Potential of 3,3'-Diindolylmethane (DIM)". In Sarkar, Fazlul H. Nutraceuticals and Cancer. pp. 111–33. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-2630-7_6. ISBN 978-94-007-2629-1.
  5. ^ Song, Lijiang; Thornalley, Paul J. (2007). "Effect of storage, processing and cooking on glucosinolate content of Brassica vegetables". Food and Chemical Toxicology. 45 (2): 216–24. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2006.07.021. PMID 17011103. Lay summaryUniversity of Warwick (15 May 2007).
  6. ^ Matusheski, Nathan V.; Swarup, Ranjan; Juvik, John A.; Mithen, Richard; Bennett, Malcolm; Jeffery, Elizabeth H. (2006). "Epithiospecifier Protein from Broccoli (Brassica oleraceaL. Ssp.italica) Inhibits Formation of the Anticancer Agent Sulforaphane". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 54 (6): 2069–76. doi:10.1021/jf0525277. PMID 16536577. Lay summaryScienceDaily (5 April 2005).
  7. ^ Fan, S; Meng, Q; Auborn, K; Carter, T; Rosen, E M (2006). "BRCA1 and BRCA2 as molecular targets for phytochemicals indole-3-carbinol and genistein in breast and prostate cancer cells". British Journal of Cancer. 94 (3): 407–26. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6602935. PMC 2361140. PMID 16434996. Lay summaryBBC News (7 February 2006).
  8. ^ Wu, Yongsheng; Feng, Xiaoling; Jin, Yucui; Wu, Zhaojia; Hankey, William; Paisie, Carolyn; Li, Lei; Liu, Fengjuan; et al. (2010). "A Novel Mechanism of Indole-3-Carbinol Effects on Breast Carcinogenesis Involves Induction of Cdc25A Degradation". Cancer Prevention Research. 3 (7): 818–28. doi:10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-09-0213. PMC 4214069. PMID 20587702. Lay summaryScienceDaily (30 June 2010).
  9. ^ Farnham, Mark W.; Kopsell, Dean A. (2009). "Importance of Genotype on Carotenoid and Chlorophyll Levels in Broccoli Heads". HortScience. 44 (5): 1248–53. Lay summaryScienceDaily (8 November 2009).
  10. ^ Vivar, Omar I.; Lin, Chia-Lei; Firestone, Gary L.; Bjeldanes, Leonard F. (2009). "3,3′-Diindolylmethane induces a G1 arrest in human prostate cancer cells irrespective of androgen receptor and p53 status". Biochemical Pharmacology. 78 (5): 469–76. doi:10.1016/j.bcp.2009.05.008. PMC 2706920. PMID 19433067.
  11. ^ Le, Hien T.; Schaldach, Charlene M.; Firestone, Gary L.; Bjeldanes, Leonard F. (2003). "Plant-derived 3,3′-Diindolylmethane Is a Strong Androgen Antagonist in Human Prostate Cancer Cells" (PDF). Journal of Biological Chemistry. 278 (23): 21136–45. doi:10.1074/jbc.M300588200. PMID 12665522.
  12. ^ Srilakshmi, B. (2006). Nutrition Science. New Age International. pp. 186–7. ISBN 978-81-224-1633-6. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Bayer CropScience first to sequence the entire genome of rapeseed/canola" (Press release). Bayer CropScience. 9 October 2009. Archived from the original on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  15. ^ Wang, Xiaowu; Wang, Hanzhong; Wang, Jun; Sun, Rifei; Wu, Jian; Liu, Shengyi; Bai, Yinqi; Mun, Jeong-Hwan; et al. (2011). "The genome of the mesopolyploid crop species Brassica rapa". Nature Genetics. 43 (10): 1035–9. doi:10.1038/ng.919. PMID 21873998.
  16. ^ "". Rothamsted Research. Retrieved 25 May 2013.[verification needed]
  17. ^ Gledhill, David (2008). "The Names of Plants". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521866453 (hardback), ISBN 9780521685535 (paperback). pp 76

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Brassica at Wikimedia Commons
  • Data related to Brassica at Wikispecies