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|Cultivar group||Chinensis Group, Pekinensis Group|
|Origin||China, before the 15th century|
|Cultivar group members||Many; see text.|
Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa, subspecies pekinensis and chinensis) can refer to two groups of Chinese leaf vegetables often used in Chinese cuisine: the Pekinensis Group (napa cabbage) and the Chinensis Group (bok choy).
These vegetables are both variant cultivars or subspecies of the turnip and belong to the same genus as such Western staples as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Both have many variations in name, spelling, and scientific classification, especially the bok choy (B. rapa chinensis) variety.
The Chinese cabbage was principally grown in the Yangtze River Delta region, but the Ming Dynasty naturalist Li Shizhen popularized it by bringing attention to its medicinal qualities. The variant cultivated in Zhejiang around the 14th century was brought north and the northern harvest of napa cabbage soon exceeded the southern one. These were then exported back south along the Grand Canal to Hangzhou and traded by sea as far south as Guangdong.
Napa cabbage became a staple in Northeastern Chinese cuisine for making suan cai, Chinese sauerkraut. In Korea, this developed into kimchi. Chinese cabbage is now commonly found in markets throughout the world, catering both to the Chinese diaspora and to northern markets who appreciate its resistance to cold.
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