The cabbage (Brassica oleracea var.
capitata) is an edible plant of the Family Brassicaceae (or
Cruciferae). It is herbaceous, biennial, and a dicotyledonous
flowering plant with leaves forming a characteristic compact
head. Surprisingly, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens,
kohlrabi and brussels sprouts, Chinese kale or Chinese broccoli,
broccolini and broccoflower are varieties of the same plant
species: Brassica oleracea.
The cabbage head was bred into the species from the leafy wild
plant, found in the Mediterranean region around 100 CE. The
English name derives from the French caboche (head). Varieties
include Red cabbage, Savoy cabbage, and Chinese cabbage.
Cabbages are commonly used both cooked and as a salad vegetable.
They keep well and were thus a common winter vegetable before
refrigeration and long-distance shipping of produce. Sauerkraut
is a fermented cabbage often used as a condiment or side dish.
Bok choy (Brassica campestris) is an Asian relative of the
common cabbage. The English umbrella term Chinese cabbage
usually refers to a type of bok choy, particularly the
There are two distinctly different groups of
Brassica campestris, and a wide range of varieties within these two
The Pekinensis group is the more common of the two, especially outside
Asia; names such as da bai cai, pe-tsai, Chinese white cabbage, nappa
cabbage and hakusai (Japanese) usually refer to members of this group.
Pekinensis cabbages have broad green leaves with white petioles, tightly
wrapped in a cylindrical formation and usually, but not necessarily,
forming a compact head. As the group name indicates, this is
particularly popular in northern China around Beijing (Peking), as well
as in Japan and Korea.
The Chinensis group was originally classified as its own species under
the name B. chinensis by Linnaeus. Smaller in size, the Mandarin term
xiao bai cai as well as the descriptive English names Chinese chard,
Chinese mustard, celery mustard and spoon cabbage are also employed.
Chinensis varieties do not form heads; instead, they have smooth, dark
green leaf blades forming a cluster reminiscent of mustard or celery.
Chinensis varieties are popular in southern China and South-East Asia.