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Cabbage


Cabbage

Varieties

Cabbage, a member of the Cruciferae family, is related to kale, broccoli, collards and Brussels sprouts. Cabbage has a round shape and is composed of superimposed leaf layers.

There are three major types of cabbage: green, red and Savoy. The color of green cabbage ranges from pale to dark green while red cabbage has leaves that are either crimson or purple with white veins running through. Both green and red cabbage have smooth textured leaves. The leaves of Savoy cabbage are more ruffled and yellowish-green in color.

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Storage

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.

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Origins and Culture

The word cabbage is an Anglicized form of the French caboche, meaning head. But it was the Celts who distributed cabbage throughout Europe. Although Asia Minor is the birthplace of cabbage, Celtic knowledge of the plant was so ancient that it influenced the Latin name, Brassica (from the Celtic word bresic, meaning cabbage).

The Greeks seemed not to have been as enamoured with cabbage as the Romans. In Rome, the price of cabbage would sometimes sky-rocket if the supply was disrupted. The Greeks, on the other hand, could take it or leave it. In Greece, however, one eccentric philosopher was reputed to have lived in a barrel and eaten nothing but cabbage -- and he lived to be over 80! Among his other eccentric habits, Diogenes of Sinode was said to have walked the streets of Athens in full daylight with a torch. When asked, he said he was looking for an honest man.

Cabbage is composed of many thick, tightly-layered leaves, either red or green in colour; the interior leaves are always paler since they are not exposed to light. As food historian Waverly Root has pointed out, vegetables like cabbage were developed over time by farmers encouraging the development of one element or another already present in the original plant. Wild cabbage, for instance, was noted for the tendency of its leaves to curl up, and was selectively re-planted to form itself into heads. Similarly, broccoli and cauliflower were cabbage flowers urged to new heights. Brussels sprouts were cabbage buds, appearing where leaves met stem, persuaded to form themselves into mini cabbages and so on.

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Nutritional and Medicinal Properties

Cabbage contains healing mucilaginous substances, which are similar to those produced by the mucous membrane of the gut and stomach for their own protection. Traditionally, European naturopaths have used it to treat stomach ulcers, prescribing 1 liter of fresh cabbage juice to be taken daily over ten days. Modern research has shown that this regime results in complete healing. Cabbage is also rich in iron, Vitamin C and sulfur.

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Basic Cooking Instructions

Overcooking cabbage leads to nutrient loss. Instead, steam or saute, or even broil in a sealed pan for as short a time as possible, until softened. Store cabbage in your refrigerator. This helps it retain the vitamin C content. Once the head has been cut, place the remainder in plastic bags and place in the refrigerator. Try to use the remaining cabbage in the next day or two. Do not wash cabbage until you are ready to use it.

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