A Leafy Wonder
The humble cabbage is a very versatile vegetable. It's great for coleslaw, but cabbage can bring so much more to your table - and you! Cabbage leaves were used to make poultices for bruises (Maiscott 2000). Modern medicine has reported that cabbage leaves can help protect the lining of the stomach (Fleming 2000).
Everything you need to know about cabbage!
Botanical evidence suggests that cabbage has been cultivated for more than 4,000 years, originating in Turkey and Greece. Reportedly, Jacques Cartier, who planted it in Canada on his third voyage, circa 1541, first introduced it to North America. Get to know this leafy wonder by learning about the different types and preparation techniques.
Cabbage, one of the oldest vegetables, continues to be a dietary staple and an inexpensive food. It is easy to grow, tolerates the cold, and keeps well. Some varieties of cabbage are great sources of vitamin C.
Cabbage Aids Detox
Cabbage contains numerous anti-cancer and antioxidant compounds that help the liver break down excess hormones.
Cabbage also cleanses the digestive tract and soothes the stomach, which could be partially due to its antibacterial and antiviral properties. Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, kale, and spinach demonstrate powerful detoxification ability, including neutralizing some of the damaging compounds found in cigarette smoke.
There are at least a hundred different types of cabbage grown throughout the world, but the most common types in the United States are the Green, Red, and Savoy varieties. Chinese varieties are also available. The two most common types of Chinese cabbage are Bok Choy and Napa cabbage. Chinese cabbage cooks in less time than standard U.S. types, but can be prepared in the same ways. Cabbage can be steamed, boiled, braised, microwaved, stuffed, or stir-fried.
Look for solid, heavy heads of cabbage. Avoid cabbage that has discolored veins or worm damage. Do not buy precut cabbage, the leaves may have already lost their vitamin C. Look for stems that are healthy looking, closely trimmed, and are not dry or split.
Varieties of Cabbage
The heart of any good coleslaw is shredded green cabbage, which, in the supermarket, looks similar to a head of iceberg lettuce - green, round and typically a little smaller than a volleyball. Green is the most common type of cabbage and is popular for its crunchiness and mild flavor. When looking for a head of green cabbage, look for one that is heavy for its size and has no discoloration.
This type adds a burst of color to any salad or stir-fry. Red cabbage takes longer to mature than green cabbage, so they usually are not as tender. This variety is perfect for serving raw in salads and slaws. The color in red cabbage can often run when cooked. Other foods will turn red and the cabbage will take on a bluish hue. This can be avoided by cooking with an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar.
Tender and sweet, Savoy cabbage is popular in Italian recipes and has a milder flavor than green cabbage. Look for heads with even green coloring and slightly cone-shaped leaves. The leaves should be crisp, not limp, and there should be no sign of browning. The firmer leaves work well when cooked in such dishes as cabbage rolls.
Introduced into North America from China in the 1880's, Napa is also known as Chinese cabbage. It has long, oblong-shaped leaves that are flat and wide. The leaves are a pale green to greenish white in the center. It looks much like a head of romaine lettuce only more compact, with curly edges. Napa can be served cooked or raw and works particularly well in stir-fries and soups.
Many kids turn their noses up at this miniature form of cabbage, but a little butter or a touch of salt is often the solution. In the supermarket, look for fresh, unfaded green color with no sign of yellowing. The heads should be dense and firm, the leaves unwilted.
For best chopping results, use a chef's knife and a very flat surface. Start by cutting one side off the cabbage. Then roll it over to sit on the flat side. Cut around the tough core, which is not eaten. Cut off the top, then the sides around the core. Finally, chop, grate or shred the remaining wedges of cabbage.
- 1/4 pound cooked cabbage equals one serving
- One medium head (about two pounds) cabbage equals 4 to 6 servings or 6 to 8 cups shredded
Do not wash cabbage until you are ready to use it. Avoid slicing or shredding cabbage in advance. This will cause it to lose some of its vitamin C content. If you must prepare it an hour or more in advance before cooking, place it in a plastic bag, seal tightly, and refrigerate.
Keep cabbage cold. This helps it retain its vitamin C content. Place the whole head of cabbage in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to one week. 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.
Cabbage and Your Immune System
Containing both antioxidants and glutathione, both help the immune system function. Don't know which to get? Traditional, white, red, and even Chinese are all good sources of the preceding.
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