If you haven’t eaten cabbage in a while, we urge you to look again at this healthy, unsung hero of the vegetable world.
Before we had the little greenhouse that enables us to grow salad and cooking greens all winter, we grew between 50 and 100 green and red cabbages each year—and ate them all. I loved looking at them as they grew like giant flowers in the garden, then as they rested side by side in the root cellar.
Last spring was the first time in 40-plus years of gardening that I didn’t grow a single cabbage. I find myself wishing I had (especially red cabbage), despite having more vegetables than our now-two-person household knows what to do with.
5 Reasons to Enjoy Cabbage
I’ll plant a few cabbages this year, because:
- Cabbage is really good for you! Many health benefits are similar to broccoli (they’re in the same plant family). It’s loaded with vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin K, and fiber, but also it may reduce the risk of some forms of cancer including colorectal cancers.
- It’s cheap and widely available year-round.
- Although most any cabbage will work for any use, plant breeders have developed many varieties in many colors and textures. Some are sweet, mild, tender as lettuce; others rock hard and good for shredding or slicing crosswise into thick “steaks” for roasting.
- Cabbage can be stored for months in your fridge! If you buy it whole, it should last two months. If you grow your own and choose the right varieties, will keep for many months in a root cellar.
- It’s versatile. I’ve eaten it raw and used cabbage steamed, boiled, fried, roasted, grilled and stuffed. I’ve sliced it into soup, shredded it into coleslaws, stir-fried it with onions and apples, fermented it into sauerkraut, stuffed whole cabbages or individual cabbage leaves. I’ve even experimented with cabbage desserts, not always successfully. (Hint: Use sauerkraut for best results.)
How to Cook Cabbage
Many folks make the mistake of overcooking cabbage which produces that cabbage odor. If this has been your impression, I urge you to try again! Do NOT overcook cabbage! The longer the cabbage is cooked, the more smelly it becomes. The solution: cook briefly, just until tender.
I like to sear cabbage by heating it in a very hot pan with a little bit of olive oil and butter (and a pinch of salt) until the cabbage wilts. Or, try roasting cabbage. Get the roasting pan really hot in the oven, and then put wedges of cabbage (tossed in olive oil and a little salt), and roast until slightly carmelized.
Also, do NOT cook cabbage in aluminum pans; use stainless steel pots and pans. Finally, it helps to add a few drops of vinegar while cooking or wipe the inside lid of the pan with vinegar.
Cabbage is, quite literally, the head of the Brassica family (which includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale). In the English word “cabbage” comes from the Latin word for “head” (caput).
The cultivated cabbage originated somewhere in Europe more than 2000 years ago, and has become a common staple in cuisines around the world. Its ubiquity in our own markets and on American dinner tables is probably why “cabbage” is also versatile as a figure of speech, with dozens of slang meanings (many of them unprintable here).
The word cabbage is related to the French word “caboche” which also means “blockhead” or “moron” which this seems to be the origin of the pejorative “cabbagehead” (“moron”).
- Use it as a noun (many meanings): We’ve gotta clear all this cabbage off the kitchen table. I need a new computer, but I don’t have the cabbage.
- An adjective: He’s such a cabbage-mouth. Your idea is totally cabbage. (Could mean either a terrible idea or a good one).
- A verb: I forgot to lock it, and somebody cabbaged my car while I was in the supermarket. (Could mean either trashed or stolen.)
For me, cabbage belongs at the head of the class.