Bustling Brussels

Photo by Bob Balmer

Brussels Sprouts

  • brussels sprouts are closely related to cabbage
  • in fact
  • they’re a cultivar of wild cabbage
  • they’re actualy the same species of plant as wild cabbage
  • both wild cabbage and brussels sprouts are Brassica oleracea
  • wild cabbage and brussels sprouts are also both members of the mustard family, Brassicaceae
  • things get weird when you start mixing taxonomic and common names
  • cabbage, brussels sprouts, mustard
  • oh my
  • modern brussels sprouts likely were first bred in Ancient Rome
  • and then in Belgium in the 1200s
  • they became extremely popular in the 1600s and Belgium started exporting them all over Europe
  • soon enough
  • it seemed like everyone was cultivating these four foot tall poles covered in edible buds
  • it only took until 1800 for French settlers to bring brussels sprouts to America
  • they were first planted in Louisiana
  • and commercial production of the vegetable began not too long after
  • in 1925 in the Louisiana Delta
  • it only took until 1939 for the American brussels sprout capital to be shifted to California
  • where it has stayed ever since
  • in 1997 in the US
  • 32,000 metric tons of brussels sprouts were produced and consumed
  • so we seem to like them quite a bit

The story of an immigrant vegetable, such romance. This sort of anecdote begs the question, are we in controlling the plants or are the plants controlling us? General opinion would likely say the former, but I think the latter is surely a possibility. The point of the existence of most organisms is to reproduce so by being a tasty, nutritious, easy to grow crop, your reproduction would be heavily facilitated by those that enjoy munching on you. So are we deciding what crops we plant for ourselves or are plants deciding among themselves via the evolution of nutritional value?

(Michael Pollan’s book, “Botany of Desire”, has a lot more to say on this topic.)

“Brussels Sprout — New World Encyclopedia”.Newworldencyclopedia.org. N. p., 2016. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

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