By Vicky Babcock
Everyone knows that babies come from the cabbage patch, right? But do you know where cabbages come from? According to Roman mythology cabbages sprung from the tears of Lycurgus, King of the Edonians of Thrake. Lycurgus had reason to cry cabbage tears, having angered the god Dionysos whom he had persecuted. As punishment he was struck mad and in this sad state, slew his wife and sons.
Cabbage is one of the earliest domestic vegetables, likely dating as far back as 1000 B.C. They are from the family Cruciferae, from the Latin for “cross”, so named because the flowers of this family are cross-shaped. While many varieties of cabbage can be found today, the most common and familiar to us are the green and red cabbages. The savoy cabbage, also fairly common, was developed by German gardeners during the 16th century. Not all cabbages are equal as red and green and savoy all have slightly different nutritional values. For a nutritional powerhouse, you can’t go wrong with cabbage! Generally speaking, one cup of raw, shredded cabbage contains only 50 calories and a whopping 190% of the RDA of vitamin C. It is an excellent source of vitamin K with 91% RDA in one cup, shredded. It is also an exceptional source of manganese, vitamin B6 and folate as well as a good source of thiamin, riboflavin calcium, potassium, vitamin A, fiber, protein and magnesium. With virtually no fat, it is a dieter’s dream!
Cabbage, in the form of sauerkraut, was used by Dutch sailors to prevent scurvy during long ocean voyages. Captain Cook believed in the medicinal value of sauerkraut and his ship’s doctor used it for compresses for wounded sailors. Long before this the cabbage was recognized as a valuable medicinal tool—Greeks and Romans believed that the vegetable could cure almost any illness. Both the Egyptians and the Romans believed eating cabbage before a night of drinking would prevent them from feeling the effects of the alcohol. While I found no support for this theory, cabbage juice has been used to treat stomach ulcers and to relieve constipation and cabbage has been linked to cancer and stroke prevention.
Love of cabbage was the undoing of the Man in the Moon, whom, it is said was banished to Earth’s satellite because he had been caught stealing a cabbage from his neighbor on Christmas Eve. The heaviest cabbage on record was grown by Scott Robb of Palmer, Alaska and weighed 138.25 pounds. The largest cabbage dish used 80,191 cabbage rolls and weighed 1,221 pounds. Babe Ruth wore a cabbage leaf under his hat during games to keep cool—he would change it for a fresh leaf every 2 innings. World Cabbage Day is on February 17th. You can use red cabbage water to determine pH—it will turn red in acidic solutions and green in basic solutions. In a neutral solution it will stay purple. You can make red cabbage water by chopping up one large red cabbage and boiling it until the water turns a deep purple. Cool and refrigerate.
1 small head savoy or green cabbage, about 2 ½ pounds
1 thinly sliced onion (optional)
2 tablespoons butter
Salt to taste
¼ to ½ teaspoon pepper
¼ tsp. nutmeg or ginger
Cut the cabbage thinly as for coleslaw—discard core. In a large pan, sauté in butter until tender and slightly browned—approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Add seasons and serve as a side.
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