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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - April 21, 2007

From: Georgetown, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Possibility of consuming Rapistrum rugosum
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Reference: "Bastard Cabbage" (Rapistrum rugosum) Garden section of Austin American-Statesman (April 7, 2007) speaks of this weed. As a child, my parents used to pick, cook and eat this weed at the stage that the head looks similar to tiny broccoli and before it becomes a flower. I enjoyed this vegetable as a child and am tempted to pick and eat it again. IS IT SAFE?

ANSWER:

Although it is entirely possible that this is the plant you ate as a child, Mr. Smarty Plants wonders if you are confusing Rapistrum rugosum with Brassica juncea, mustard greens or Indian mustard. I haven't found anyone at the Wildflower Center who has had experience eating R. rugosum. Both plants are members of the mustard family, Family Brassicaceae, and look very similar. B. juncea is commonly eaten, and even though it is also an introduced species, it isn't considered invasive.

Is Rapistrum rugosum safe to eat? Obviously, some members of the mustard family are edible (e.g., the cultivated Brassica oleracea which includes cabbage, kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc.). These cultivated members of the mustard family have been selected over the years to diminish any possible toxic properties. Reference.com says that all members of the Family Brassicaceae are edible, but cautions against eating the seeds in great quantities. Cornell University Poisonous Plants Informational Database reports that the seeds and roots of all Brassica spp. are poisonous and Poisonous Plants of the Southeastern United States and the Canada Poisonous Plants Information System report that Brassica spp. have toxic effects on livestock when fed in large quantities. However, neither Brassica spp. nor Rapistrum rugusom are listed in the Texas Toxic Plants Database nor in the Poisonous Plants of North Carolina database. So, the bottom line is that Mr. Smarty Plants would advise caution in eating the R. rugosum. This is especially so given that it is an invasive species and it is possible that a wild population that you might consider harvesting to eat has been treated with an herbicide.

To find out more about R. rugosum and its invasiveness read:
Rapistrum rugosum (Annual Bastard cabbage) in Central Texas and Annual Bastard Cabbage by Karen Louise Enyedy.


 

 

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