Astoundingly, cabbage has been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. Its English name comes from the French word, caboche, meaning head, referring to its round shape. And while cabbage is most commonly associated with the Irish (and boiled dinners!), its history goes back to the Greeks and Romans; in fact, Emperor Claudius called upon his Senate to vote on whether any dish could beat corned beef and cabbage. (The Senate voted no.)
Today, cabbage is known for its wealth of protective vitamins. Hailed as a cancer inhibitor, particularly colon cancer, cabbage stimulates the immune system, kills harmful bacteria, soothes ulcers, and improves circulation. Its outer ears are a good source of vitamin E, which is excellent for a healthy complexion. Also rich in vitamin C (raw white cabbage contains as much vitamin C as lemon juice), the cabbage can help maintain your health during cold and flu season. And all at only 24 calories per 3.5 ounces!
Cabbage comes in several varieties. The red and purple take the longest to mature, so these types are generally not as tender as green or white varieties. When cooking with red or purple cabbage, be aware that the compound that gives cabbage that beautiful color will also turn it blue when it is cooked along with any alkaline substance. Since tap water is often full of alkaline minerals such as lime, be sure to add about 1 teaspoon of acidic agent, such as lemon juice, vinegar, or wine, to the pot when using tap water. If your red cabbage begins to take on that blue tinge in any recipe, the addition of the acidic agent will usually bring back the original color.
Don’t write off cabbage if you sometimes suffer from digestive distress after eating it. Try blanching the whole or quartered cabbage for five minutes, change the water, and then continue cooking in fresh water if necessary. Experiment with some of these recipes, which may have you looking at cabbage in a whole new way!
Brookford Farm, Heron Pond Farm, Red Manse Farm, Stout Oak Farm, and Wild Miller Gardens will be bringing this week’s featured vegetable, cabbage, to our next Winter Farmers’ Market on Saturday, December 1st, at the Wentworth Greenhouses in Rollinsford — make sure to stop by the Seacoast Eat Local information booth and pick up the day’s recipe card!