Cabbage is part of the Brassica family and is believed to be native to the Mediterranean region. Red cabbage has smooth leaves and is a gorgeous color. Cabbage has a long history dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans when it was prized for its medicinal properties. There is proof that the Romans advised to eat lots of cabbage with vinegar before a banquet when one plans to “drink deep.” The Egyptians also ate cabbage to help keep them sober. It also has history in linguistics, with the term “cabbage head” implying stupidity.
That being said, cabbage is far from stupid when it comes to good nutrition. It contains lots of vitamin C and is also high in the B vitamins. Interestingly, red cabbage contains more vitamin C than the green cabbage does. You should be aware of the fact that lengthy cooking of cabbage will tend to minimize its nutritional value. Pickling or fermenting your cabbage will preserve its vitamin C content to help get you through the cold winter months.
Keep your cabbage stored in the refrigerator but do try to serve it at the peak of its freshness. Fresh picked cabbage will surprise you—it is quite a different vegetable than the old heads of cabbage they have hanging around in the grocery store! It will have a lovely sweetness when it is still fresh—over time that sweetness fades. It can be eaten raw in cole slaws, pickled as sauerkraut, added to soups and stews, boiled, steamed, braised, stir-fried and stuffed. A small splash of vinegar toward the end of cooking will help to enhance the flavor of your cabbage. Some people object to the smell of cooking cabbage, which can be a bit sulphuric. If the smell bugs you try not to cook it too long— the longer you cook it the more it will smell! Some folks claim that adding a whole walnut or a celery stalk to the cooking water will help to minimize the odor. Some flavors that go well with cabbage are fennel seed, butter, vinegar, sweet and sour, apples, onions, chile peppers, garlic and ginger.