Bastard Cabbage

Scientific Name(s): Rapistrum rugosum
Abundance: invasive
What: young leaves, flower buds, flowers, young seedpods
How: raw, cooked
Where: sunny ditches, fields, disturbed areas
When: late fall, winter, spring, early summer
Nutritional Value: minerals, vitamin C, antioxidants
Dangers: none known

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves are arranged alternately along the stems.

Leaf Shape: The leaves are broad lanceolate, with a length of approximately 1.5 to 4 inches and a width of about 0.5 to 1 inch. Some lobes may be present, especially on older, larger leaves.

Leaf Venation: The venation is pinnate, with prominent veins running from the base to the tip of the leaves.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margins are serrated or toothed, creating a slightly jagged edge.

Leaf Color: The leaves are generally green, with no significant color variation between the top and underside.

Flower Structure: The flowers are small and have four petals, forming a cross-shaped structure. They are clustered at the ends of the stems.

Flower Color: The flower color can vary but is often yellow.

Fruit: The fruit are small, bulbous, pod with a spike at the tip, growing in a spiraling pattern up the ends of stem and branches. 

Seed: Seeds are small, oval-shaped, and numerous within the pod. They may have a brown or black color.

Stem: The stems are erect, branching, and may have a reddish or greenish hue.

Hairs: The plant may have fine hairs on the stems or leaves, contributing to a slightly textured appearance and fuzzy feel.

Height: Rapistrum rugosum typically grows to a height of 1 to 3 feet, depending on environmental conditions.

Full plants seen along a roadside.
Bastard Cabbage

Bastard Cabbage

Bastard Cabbage

A single stalk of Bastard Cabbage. Note the alternating leaf pattern.
Bastard Cabbage

Close-up of flowers and flower buds.
Bastard Cabbage

Close-up of seedpods. Note the "beaks" extending from the tips of the pods away from the stem.
Bastard Cabbage

Close-up of the stem and unopened flower buds. Note the hairs.
Bastard Cabbage

Mature leaf of Bastard Cabbage.
Bastard Cabbage

A seedling of Bastard Cabbage.
Bastard Cabbage

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

There's a yellow-flowered invader lining the roadsides and taking over fields of Texas and the rest of North America and it's name is Bastard Cabbage! Wow, that was a lot of "and"s in that previous sentence. Oh well. These plants prefer cool weather, fall through spring, during which time they're unfortunately everywhere. On the plus side, being a member of the brassica (mustard) family, pretty much all parts of this invader from southern Europe are edible.

Starting at the top and working our way down the plant, it's flowers have the standard mustard-family structure of four petals (yellow in this case) in an "X" arrangement surrounding six stamens, four of which are long and two stamens are short. The flowers grow in bunches off the stem and before they blow the highly-packed clusters look like tiny heads of broccoli, which is also a member of the mustard family. Below the flowers are seedpods arranged in a spiral up the stem. Note the "beak" jutting out from the top of the seedpod away from the stem.

The stem itself is somewhat hairy branched. The leaves at its base are large, broad, deeply lobed, and form a rosette whereas the leaves closer to the tops of the stems will be elongated, narrow, and unloved or very shallowly lobed. Underground, bastard cabbage forms a heavy taproot, similar to that of horseradish.

How do I eat this invasive species? The flowers and green seedpods I like raw straight off the plant or added to salads. The broccoli-like flower buds are also eaten raw or cooked like broccoli florets (drizzled with cheese!) The younger, tender leaves are cooked like turnip/collard greens, sautéing them with some garlic and bacon. The younger, tender parts of the stem do well when cooked/steamed like asparagus. I have yet to experiment with the roots but suspect a low-grade "horseradish" sauce could be made from them.

Buy my book! Outdoor Adventure Guides Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

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