The Chinese have it sautéed
It’s spicy hot in Bombay
Jamaicans love it in a stew
Boiled is the Irish point of view.
Stuff and roll, the Greeks say
Pickled is the Korean way
In haut cuisine, it’s a chic side dish
Slavs savor it in a hot knish.
From Thailand to Canada
Sweden to Panama
From Hawaii to Maine
Australia to Spain.
It’s a veggie for every season
A veggie for all terrains
A veggie for all reasons
Celebrations and the mundane.
Gourmets prefer a hint of caraway
It’s coleslaw in the USA
And the Latins will tell you
They like it on their tacos, too.
Cabbage is egalitarian
For carnivores and vegetarians
For people in tuxedos, people in blue jeans
People of any class, people of any means.
Though it’s not the whole answer
It’s an ally against cancer
Do yourself a favor
Cabbage is yours to savor.
From Chile to The Philippines
Turkey to Kwajalein
From Iceland to Senegal
Bali to Portugal.
Take the advice of a cabbage head
And remember what I said.
I have always been a staunch supporter of underdogs and the underappreciated, even with vegetables, it turns out. Sure, broccoli with its luxurious bouffant, eggplant (aubergine) with its brilliant complexion and mushrooms with their musky majesty are seductive, but… (drum roll, please) ...how about some applause for the heroic humble cabbage: the myriad ways you can prepare it, all the afflictions it helps to cure and the folkloric fables attached to it.
There is no clinical evidence to prove all the diseases and discomfort which cabbage has healed or helped to heal all over the world for centuries. Probably because it can stink when you cook it and scientists don’t want to be in the laboratory inhaling it day after day for months.
All jokes aside, the Chinese were growing it in 1,000 B.C. Other tribes perhaps before that. That’s at least 3,000 years ago. A scroll from that era touts white cabbage as a cure for baldness in men. Too bad I didn’t find that out 20 years ago. The Egyptian pharaohs employed it as well - to absorb their wine (so they could drink more).
Speaking of alcoholic beverages, some still employ cabbage with vinegar to be a cure for a hangover, not to mention inhaling the full force of its fumes, your head hanging over a boiling pot of it. However, it was the Greeks and Romans who invested maximum faith in it, for they believed cabbage could heal just about any illness.
Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.) claimed that the Romans, for the most part, eschewed doctors for 600 years, healing everything with cabbage. Only when Rome eventually succumbed to decadence and the lazy life did the wily doctors come peddling costly, less effective medications.
For some time in Old Europe, the genteel and the gentry, ever wary of vegetables, damned cabbage to be drab fare for the poor or fodder for their pigs and cows and game. For this folly, they suffered from gout, among other maladies, plagues of the rich man’s fatty, organ-clogging diet.
Ah, but the winds of change are fickle. Now we universally regard it as highly nutritious (and delicious) with its robust anti-aging and anti-cancer properties. Packed with vitamins C, K and B6, it is rich in fiber, which helps improve digestion and promote healthy functioning bowels. Because it also lowers blood pressure, cabbage is a best friend forever to your heart.
Having personally experienced these claims, I am an ardent believer. In cabbage, I trust.
Applied externally in fresh leaf poultices, it aids in healing abscesses and burns, tumors and uterus infections, shingles and persistent wounds. Drinking cabbage juice soothes some ulcers and can prevent gall bladder infections, while sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) juice cleans the blood, detoxifies the body, strengthens the immune system, regulates intestinal flora and reduces arteriosclerosis.
Through the millennia, cabbage has survived - or thrived, I should say. Herbal healer Maurice Mességué, who lived to be 95, was a vigorous proponent of cabbage. He labeled it “the apothecary of the poor.” In a light-hearted moment, he also said, “Cabbage soup can (almost) resurrect the dead.”
Unlike the Brits and other seafaring nations of the 17th and 18th centuries, the savvy Dutch lost few, if any, sailors to scurvy, largely due to the sauerkraut (stored in kegs) they consumed on their long journeys across vast seas. British Captain James Cook, who achieved the first recorded European contact with the Hawaiian Islands, Australia and New Zealand, reputedly threatened to flog any crew member who refused to consume sauerkraut. After all, he couldn’t afford to lose any sailors.
Cabbage even has a patron saint, St. Bartholomew, which is ironic because he was eventually beheaded. You might say the Head of The Cabbages lost his head. According to folklore, on St. Bart’s Day (August 24th) the villagers steered clear of the cabbage patch for fear of chasing him away while he was blessing the cabbages.
French, Belgian and some German village gardeners of previous generations sowed it when the church bells were ringing so their cabbage heads would grow as big as the bells. Pregnant women, in their fullness, planted their seedlings so their heads would grow abundantly round like their bellies.
Like a lot of ancient yarns, the superstitious tales of our ancestors praising and beseeching their beloved and life-sustaining cabbage to flourish are preposterous and hilarious. What remains undeniably true, though, are the innumerable culinary possibilities and curative qualities of Queen Cabbage, the Cinderella of the Natural World.
Oh, Cabbage, Glorious Beauty. Let us count the ways.