Back to the Cabbage Patch
Enjoy the taste and health benefits of this leafy green vegetable
Call me odd, even crazy, but the undeniably pungent aroma of cabbage simmering on the stovetop doesn’t offend me like it does so many. In fact, I sort of like it! Well, not like I like the sweet scent of puppy breath or the complex nuances of a first-growth Bordeaux, but I can appreciate it for what it is, a leafy vegetable that has been prized for its nutritional value and cherished for centuries for its medicinal qualities. And it tastes pretty darn good to boot!
Many Americans are first introduced to cabbage on New Year’s Day, where the dish is a mainstay on many tables. Eating cabbage is believed to help one to gain wealth in the New Year, as the green color is said to represent money. I’ve ingested cabbage on New Year’s Day every year since the tender age of 5 (when I was forced to do so!) and have yet to discover my pot of gold, so I have little faith in the luck of the leaf theory. What is indisputable are the numerous health benefits this unassuming vegetable offers.
A member of the cruciferous family, which also includes arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Swiss chard, collards, kale, mustard greens, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, turnip greens and watercress, cabbage was believed by the Greeks and Romans to cure virtually any ailment, from acute inflammation to sea sickness and hangovers. Personally, I find a big, greasy pound of beef on a bun and a Barq’s Rootbeer the best bet after a night of overindulging, but being that I have yet to put cabbage to the test under such circumstances, who am I to dismiss it as a morning-after remedy? But I digress.
Cabbage does possess many important vitamins and nutrients, and it has even been proved to help reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer, namely colon and breast cancer. It is also a terrific source of fiber, potassium, folate, manganese, vitamin B6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Other benefits of eating cabbage
—Good source of vitamin A (for healthy skin and eyes); vitamin B (helps reduce stress, boosts metabolism, assists the nerve system); and vitamin C (boots immune system, removes toxins, helps burn fat)
—Aids in digestion (fiber and iron help the digestive tract and colon remain healthy)
—Contributes to weight loss (vitamin C helps burn fat and vitamin B increases metabolism). One cup of cabbage contains merely 15 calories!
—Reduces inflammation (offers significant amounts of the amino acid glutamine, which has anti-inflammatory properties)
Common cabbage varieties
The most common cabbage variety is pale green and white in color with tight leaves. It is typically used in slaws and soups.
Deep purple in color, it has a similar look and flavor to green cabbage and is commonly used for pickling, in slaws and salads.
These popular cabbages with compact heads that have light green, crinkled leaves and white stems. This type can be eaten raw and is commonly used in stir-fry dishes.
Chinese Cabbage/Bok Choy
Bok Choy has dark green leaves that grow loosely and white stems. They too are often found in Asian cuisine.
Southern Style Braised Cabbage Approx. 3–6 servings
4 slices raw apple smoked bacon, sliced thinly
2 yellow onions
2 cloves garlic
1 head cabbage, remove core and slice into ½
2 smoked ham hocks preboiled and picked
(save boiling liquid for cooking cabbage)
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup of stock from boiled ham hocks
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
Place a 4 quart sauce pot on medium high heat, add bacon. Let bacon render
it starts to turn golden brown. Add onions and garlic. Cook until onions become
translucent. Stir the pan with a wooden spoon scraping the caramelization
bottom of the pan (this is natural sugar from the ingredients and will give
Add cabbage, ham hocks and remaining ingredients. Let simmer approximately
minutes over medium heat, or until cabbage is cooked.
Strain off any juices into a separate pot. Reduce liquid to almost a syrup consistency,
pour back over cabbage and serve.
Recipe courtesy of Ralph Brennan’s Red Fish Grill