The word "cabbage" comes from the French caboche, meaning "head." Cabbage originated in the eastern Mediterranean about 2000 years ago. Cabbage plants can tolerate frost and even temperatures as low as 20°F for short periods. They grow best in regions where there is a long, cool growing season with temperatures from 45-75 degrees Fahrenheit. It comes to harvest 80-100 days from seed, with growing seasons from August-December and March-May and peak harvest in December and May.
There are three general cabbage categories: green cabbage, with smooth leaves; red cabbage, with purplish leaves; and savory cabbage, with crinkly green leaves. Cabbage is a good source of vitamin K, vitamin C, folic acid, and phytonutrients.
Folic acid is essential for producing new cells and blood cells due to its role in the synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA. It prevents some birth defects and reduces risk of cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. It helps fight against infections, promotes wound healing, and helps our body absorb iron and folate from plants, among other roles in human health.
Vitamin K plays a major role in coagulation and blood clotting. It is important for blood, bone and kidney health.
Among the three types of cabbage, red cabbage is the richest source of dietary antioxidants and anticancer properties. Cabbage contains several phytonutrients, including:
Fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) is a good source of probiotics. Studies have shown several health benefits such as anti-inflammatory effects, immune system promotion, and improvement of digestion and nutrient absorption especially after taking antiobiotics.
When purchasing cabbage, choose firm cabbage heads that feel heavy and are tightly-packed. Cabbage can be steamed, baked, stuffed or eaten raw. Before use, rinse cabbage thoroughly and remove the tough outer leaves, cut in half and trim the core. If you don’t use the whole cabbage at once, place the remaining cabbage in a sealed plastic bag and place it in the refrigerator. It will last for about one week.
You should eat cabbage raw as often as possible, and try to eat red cabbage since it has higher levels of phytonutrients. Cabbage, as well as other cruciferous vegetables, have more anticancer properties when eaten raw. If you cook cabbage, use low-water cooking methods like lightly steaming and stir-frying at a low heat for a short period of time. These all help to preserve cabbage’s health properties.
You can add shredded cabbage to salads, soups, stews, and stir fry dishes and into recipes with potatoes, leeks, onions, and carrots. The most famous cabbage recipes come boiled, shredded and served with melted butter. As we just learned, this type of cooking can reduce the health properties of this vegetable. Below, you can find a recipe that may better preserve cabbage’s health properties.
Recipe of the Week: Stir-Fry Cabbage
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 head napa cabbage, cleaned and sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the canola oil and heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and sauté, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the cabbage and cook until just starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce and rice vinegar and stir well and cook just until cabbage is wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle with the sesame oil.
Enjoy your weekend!
Karen Alexander, BSND,MSCN