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Cabbage Flower Bud

The familiar cabbage, a popular vegetable in many cultures, is a member of the cruciferous family of flowering plants that also includes the mustards and broccolis. Unknown to many vegetable lovers, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts (baby cabbages) are closely akin to the lowly cabbage, and are members of a grouping known as cole crops or the cabbage family. Cauliflower is named by a derivation from "cabbage flower", and originated over 2,000 years ago in the gardens of Asia Minor and the Mediterranean region.

Since 1920, cauliflower has been an important vegetable in the United States and was described by Mark Twain as a "... cabbage with a college education." Almost all cauliflower grown in the United States originates from cultivars from the Salinas Valley of California. Other cauliflower-growing states include Arizona, New York, Michigan, Oregon, Florida, Washington, and Texas. As a cauliflower plant grows, a flower bud forms in the center of the plant. The cauliflower curd, in similarity to the broccoli head, is actually a group of tightly clustered white or purple flower buds. Harvest occurs before the buds begin to separate and flower. The cabbages are cool weather vegetables, growing best when daytime temperatures are between 65 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and best performance is achieved in fertile, well-drained moist soils with plentiful available organic matter.

Integrated pest management is required to protect the flower bud and the other parts of the cabbage plant and its allies. Several types of insect pest attack cole plants including caterpillars (common cabbage worm and cabbage looper), cabbage root maggot, aphids, and flea beetles, as well as fungi, such as blackleg, black rot, clubroot, and yellows. It is hard for children that reject their cruciferous vegetables to appreciate that the ancient Egyptians worshipped cabbage heads as gods, enthroned on elaborate altars. For parents and nutritionists, knowing that green cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are high in Vitamin C and are rich sources of cancer-fighting sulforaphane, isothiocyanates, and indoles (red cabbage also contains anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants) is reason enough to include this trio in a healthy diet.

Contributing Authors

Cynthia D. Kelly, Thomas J. Fellers and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.



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