Herbs & Plants

Brassica carinata

Botanical Name: Brassica carinata
Family: Brassicaceae
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Brassicales
Genus: Brassica
Species: B. carinata

*Brassica timoriana F.Muell.
*Sinabraca carinata (A.Braun) G.H.Loos
*Sinapis abyssinica A.Braun ex Regel

Common Names: Ethiopian rape, Ethiopian mustard, and Abyssinian mustard

Habitat: Brassica carinata is native to N. Africa – Ethiopia. Occasional in Britain. It is an occasional bird-sown alien on waste ground in Britain. (The plant is unknown in a truly wild situation, though it often escapes from cultivation)

Brassica carinata is an erect, annual plant, sometimes becoming biennial or even a short-lived perennial. It usually grows around 100cm tall but can sometimes reach 180cm.
A popular leaf crop in Africa, where the plant is often cultivated, it also provides edible seeds and an oil. Usually grown as a home crop, the plant is also sometimes cultivated commercially and sold in local markets. This species has been receiving some attention as a potential alternative crop. Preliminary evaluation made in Spain has also indicated a very good potential for biomass production

It is hardy to zone (UK) 9 and is not frost tender. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees. The plant is self-fertile.


Brassica carinata is very tolerant of a wide range of climatic conditions and can be grown from the temperate to tropical zones. In cool temperate it is only suitable as a leaf crop, but in other areas it can also be grown for its seed. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 10 – 25°c, but can tolerate 5 – 35°c. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 – 1,500mm, but tolerates 800 – 1,700mm.
Succeeds in full sun in a well-drained fertile preferably alkaline soil. Succeeds in any reasonable soill. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 – 8, tolerating 5 – 8.5.
Plants develop an extensive root system, larger than in other Brassica species.
There is a difference in first flowering date between oil types and vegetable types; oil types start flowering about 10 weeks after germination, vegetable cultivars after about 12 weeks, depending on cultivar and growing conditions. Flowering of vegetable cultivars is delayed by regular harvesting of the leaves or young shoots. Plants grown in dry regions flower earlier and produce ripe seeds within 4 months from sowing. Vegetable crops grown with adequate moisture produce seeds in 5 – 6 months
An average leaf and shoot yield of 35 tonnes per hectare can be expected, but at research stations leaf yields of 50 – 55 tonnes have been reported.
In India and Canada farmers may get seed yields of 1,200 – 1,800 kg per hectare in a good year.
Some tall cultivars, when grown with adequate moisture, may develop new shoots after removal of the infructescences and become perennial, normally for one further season, but plants of up to 4 years old have been recorded.
Most Brassica species are cross-pollinating, which contributes to the great diversity within species. Brassica carinata is an exception as it sets seed very efficiently through self-pollination without insects acting as pollinators.
The plant does not need low temperatures for flower initiation, and seed production is therefore much easier in Africa than for most Brassica oleracea leaf cabbages except for Portuguese kale.
There are some named varieties. ‘Texsel’ is especially good for temperate climates, it is fast growing even at relatively low temperatures.
Research has produced a collection of lines with characteristics suitable for modern agriculture. Varieties are available, including different oil types, such as low erucic (0%) and very high erucic (+ 50%) content.
This plant is unknown in the wild. It arose as a natural amphidiploid hybrid of female Brassica nigra and male Brassica oleracea.

Propagation: Seed – sow in situ in succession. Germination is very quick with the seed sprouting within.

Edible Uses:
Leaves and young stems – raw or cooked. Used when up to 30cm tall. A mild and pleasant cabbage flavour, the young growth can be cut finely and used in mixed salads, whilst older leaves are cooked like cabbage leaves. Immature flowering stems – cooked. Used like broccoli, they make a nice vegetable. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. Oil from the wild species is high in erucic acid, which is toxic, though there are some cultivars that contain very little erucic acid and can be used as food. The seed can also be crushed and used as a condiment.

The plant has a mild flavor, and is eaten as a leaf vegetable. It is known as habesha gomen, (Ethiopic) in Amharic. Named varieties include Texsel, which is particularly adapted to temperate climates. Cultivation of Ethiopia mustard as leaf vegetable is limited to small-scale production but it is slowly gaining popularity in rural as well as urban areas where commercial production is taking place.

Medicinal Uses: The seed is used in the treatment of stomach aches.

Other Uses:
An oil that is high in erucic acid can be obtained from the seed. Traditionally, it is used for oiling the baking plates of earthenware ‘injera’ stoves and also for illumination. The oil finds wide application in the production of water repellents, waxes, polyesters and lubricants. The seed oil is used to produce bio-diesel or special erucic acid derivatives. This plant is also part of a research to develop an aviation biofuel for jet engines. It has been used to develop an aviation biofuel for jet engines. On October 29, 2012, the first flight of a jet aircraft powered completely by biofuel, made from Brassica carinata, was completed. The byproduct of Brassica carinata oil production is utilized in protein meal for animal fodder.

Industrial application:
The oil quality profile includes a high percentage of erucic acid (40–45 %) making it highly desirable as a biofuel and for industrial applications such as production of plastics, lubricants, paints, leather tanning, soaps, and cosmetics.

Agroforestry Uses: The plant can be grown as a green manure.

Known Hazards: The oil contained in the seed of this species is rich in erucic acid which is toxic. However, modern cultivars have been selected which are almost free of erucic acid.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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