It has a crunch, it plays well with many other vegetables, we eat it by the pound, for Fourth of July Picnics, and BBQ parties, but what is the story behind this humble vegetable that is usually associated with corned beef? 

Cabbage has long been cultivated by humans. We’ve spent several thousand years selectively gardening cabbages so that there are a handful of well-known varieties. Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower have been selectively bred for the tight florets they produce. Green and red cabbage provide larger heads with tight leaves. And then there’s the loose leaf cabbage known as kale.

Cabbage was loved by the Romans and spread throughout the Mediterranean and Europe during their conquest of the Western World. Cabbage was a food eaten by everyone during this time. At some point in the Middle Ages, it became only a peasant food, and those who ate it were looked down upon.

Kale, one of the super cabbage foods of the century, is being hailed by health gurus as the cure-all in juicing. They claim that if you drink a tonic of kale, mixed with other greens and apples, you can ward off just about any disease.

When we think of cabbage images of corned beef, coleslaw, and digestive distress come to mind. We’re not thinking about all the health benefits, like the vitamins A, B1 through B6, C, E, K, and folic acid. Cabbage juice is reputed to battle an array of ailments. Some reports say it has anti-cancer agents as well. But please, check with a dietician or doctor before running solely on a cabbage diet.

Most folks don’t know that if you cook cabbage with cumin, coriander, mustard seed, fenugreek, and ginger you can offset the more uncomfortable effects, and gain all the good stuff. People from India have known this for thousands of years. Use carminative herbs and spices, and you reduce the stress on the digestive system that produces the unwanted effects.

If you cook cabbage too long, you cook all the goodness right out of it. The best way to cook cabbage is for about ten to fifteen minutes in a saute or soup. Boiling it down, as in a Corned Beef and Cabbage dish actually destroys the numerous health benefits.

Cabbage and Fennel Soup

Try out this recipe for Cabbage and Fennel Soup, or this one for Summer Citrus Coleslaw.