Cabbage has a long history of use both as a food and a medicine. It was developed from wild cabbage, a vegetable that was closer in appearance to collards and kale since it was composed of leaves that did not form a head.
It is thought that wild cabbage was brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by groups of Celtic wanderers. It was grown in Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations that held it in high regard as a general panacea capable of treating a host of health conditions.
Cultivation of cabbage spread across northern Europe into Germany, Poland and Russia, where it became a very popular vegetable in local food cultures. The Italians are credited with developing the Savoy cabbage. Russia, Poland, China and Japan are a few of the leading producers of cabbage today.
Sauerkraut, a dish made from fermented cabbage, has a colorful legacy. Dutch sailors consumed it during extended exploration voyages to prevent scurvy. Early German settlers introduced cabbage and the traditional sauerkraut recipes were introduced into the United States. As a result of this affiliation, German soldiers, and people of German descent were often referred to as “krauts.”
Cabbage is a leafy vegetable of the Brassica family, round or oval in shape, consisting of soft light green or whitish inner leaves covered with harder and dark green outer leaves. It is widely used throughout the world, eaten cooked or raw as salad and is a very popular vegetable.
Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin K and vitamin C. It is also a very good source of fiber, manganese, and folate. Cabbage is also a good source of molybdenum, vitamin B6, potassium, thiamin (vitamin B1), and calcium.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CABBAGE
The health benefits of cabbage include treatment of constipation, stomach ulcers, headache, excess weight, skin disorders, eczema, jaundice, scurvy, rheumatism, arthritis, gout, eye disorders, heart diseases, ageing, and Alzheimer’s disease.
OTHER BENEFITS OF CABBAGE
Cabbage, being rich in iodine, helps in proper functioning of the brain and the nervous system, apart from keeping the endocrinal glands in proper condition. Thus, it is good for brain and treatment of neurotic disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. The various other nutrients present in cabbage such as vitamin-E which keeps the skin, eye and hair healthy, calcium, magnesium, potassium, etc., are very useful for overall health. The cabbage can also be used for treatment of varicose veins, leg ulcers, peptic and duodenal ulcers etc.
HOW TO SELECT AND STORE
Choose cabbage heads that are firm and dense with shiny, crisp, colorful leaves free of cracks, bruises, and blemishes. Severe damage to the outer leaves is suggestive of worm damage or decay that may reside in the inner core as well.
There should be only a few outer loose leaves attached to the stem. If not, it may be an indication of undesirable texture and taste. Avoid buying precut cabbage, either halved or shredded, since once cabbage is cut, it begins to lose its valuable vitamin C content.
Keeping cabbage cold will keep it fresh and help it retain its vitamin C content. Put the whole head in a plastic bag in the crisper of your refrigerator. Red and green cabbage will keep this way for about 2 weeks while Savoy cabbage will keep for about 1 week.
If you need to store a partial head of cabbage, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Since the vitamin C content of cabbage starts to quickly degrade once it has been cut, you should use the remainder within a couple of days.
TIPS FOR PREPARING AND COOKING
Even though the inside of cabbage is usually clean since the outer leaves protect it, you still may want to clean it. Remove the thick fibrous outer leaves and cut the cabbage into pieces and then wash under running water.
If you notice any signs of worms or insects, which sometimes appear in cabbage, soak the head in water with a table spoon of baking soda for 15-20 minutes. To preserve its vitamin C content, cut and wash the cabbage right before cooking or eating it. Since phytonutrients in the cabbage react with carbon steel and turn the leaves black, use a stainless steel knife to cut.
To cut cabbage into smaller pieces, first quarter it and remove the core. Cabbage can be cut into slices of varying thickness, grated by hand or shredded in a food processor.
It is important to remember that we can allow the myrosinase enzymes in cabbage to do their natural work by slicing, shredding, or chopping raw cabbage and letting it sit for 5-10 minutes before cooking. Once the cells in cabbage have been broken apart through slicing, shredding, or chopping, the myrosinase enzymes in those cells can become active in converting the glucosinolates in cabbage into isothiocyanates (ITCs) which is beneficial for our health.
HOW TO ENJOY
- Thoroughly cleaned cabbage can be eaten raw, in fact, is very tasty and nutritious.
- Sliced or grated raw leaves are added to vegetable salad preparations.
- Fresh or pickled cabbage leaves are used as rolls, in filling, which is usually based on minced meat or vegetables in many parts of Central Europe, Balkans, and Asia-minor regions.
- Combine shredded red and green cabbage with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and seasonings such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, and black pepper to make coleslaw with an Indian twist.
- Use it in a vegetarian stir-fry with onion, garlic, bell peppers and green chilies and mix it with steamed rice.
- It makes a great soup with various ingredients that you enjoy.
Cabbage may contain “goitrogens,” certain plant-derived compounds, especially found in cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, etc.