Photo: churl (Flickr)
You’re walking through the forest when you come across some wild broccoli on the forest floor, except wait, wild broccoli doesn’t exist!
Broccoli is a human invention. It was bred out of the wild kale plant by carefully selecting for the traits we wanted and discarding those we didn’t.
Start with a wild kale. It has small flower buds and only flowers every other year. In a controlled environment, cause it to reproduces itself many times, and when by chance you get one plant that has larger, tastier buds, throw away the others and start reproducing that one. Next batch you might, again by chance, get a plant with not only larger buds but one that produces them more often. Save that one and keep going.
In selecting and reinforcing the traits we like, human beings have taken a wild kale and bred a new kind of plant altogether, a broccoli plant.
That’s also true of cauliflower, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, even the yummy form of cabbage you buy in the store. They are all bred out of wild kale, and didn’t occur in nature before.
- Sagan, Carl. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. New York: Random House, 1992.