The common cabbage is a very familiar garden plant and parts of the plant are widely used as a vegetable all over the world. This plant is a "round" herb which is biennial or perennial, cabbage may reach 8 ft or up to 2.5 m when fully grown. Gray leaves and a thick stem characterize the cabbage, and the herb also bears striking four petaled yellow flowers when it blooms in the spring. The familiar cabbage head is produced during the late summer within the first year of growth, this head of the cabbage results from the greatly enlarged terminal bud, and the head of cabbage is a very common vegetable all over the world.
Cultivation of the wild cabbage happened quite early in the history of human civilization and the plant is often considered one of the most ancient plants among all the common vegetables used by man, historical evidence suggests that the human cultivation of the cabbage for consumption may have been started as early as four millennia ago in the near east. While originally a wild herb, humans have managed to produce many other related forms from the common cabbage over the centuries and the cabbage family now includes, plants like the kale, the common vegetable the kohlrabi, the cauliflower, the broccoli, and the Brussels sprouts, all of which are very familiar and have been derived from the wild cabbage.
The ancient Greeks were also familiar with the cabbage, and in Greek mythology, the cabbage is supposed to have come into existence, spring out from the perspiration of Zeus, the chief deity in the Greek pantheon. Breast milk production was sought to be increased by giving cabbage to expectant mothers in the traditional medical Greek rituals, cabbage was believed to induce increase in lactation. In the following centuries, the ancient Romans made an antidote from the common cabbage, the Romans used such antidotes to ward off the toxic effects of alcohol in the body, cabbage was believed to help negate and counter intoxication from alcohol use and the Romans also believed the cabbage actually prevented or reduced the impact of a hangover following a bout of heavy drinking. The ancient also made use of the leaves of cabbages as poultices to cleanse the infected wounds on the body. Poultices of the cabbage are traditionally made for cleansing wounds and are still used today in this role, to prepare a poultice cut out the stiff midrib from a cabbage leaf and then iron it out, once this has been done, the hot leaf can be laid directly on the affected area or wound and left uncovered.
The cabbage comes in many cultivated varieties and types, according to coloration - there are red cabbages, there are white cabbages, aside from the normal green cabbages. Cabbages also differ in variety according to the texture of the leaf and there are cabbages with smooth or crinkled leaves among commonly cultivated varieties of all colors. Cabbage varieties are also differentiated according to the shape of the head, from the common round cabbage head, to the flattened head variety, cabbages also come with oblong or conical heads as well. The common conical or Wakefield cabbage shape is the type most preferred by people. There are also different shaped varieties which are commonly seen, such as the round or the Savoy, the flat headed or the Dutch cabbage, the celery or the Chinese cabbage. All of these varieties are used in different cuisines around the world.
The best cabbages must be selected on these criteria: the heads of the cabbages must have attained a reasonable size and should be compact and tight, the head also should be made up of tender leaves, and in addition, the leaves on the head must not be withered due to desiccation or puffy due to too much moisture. You should also check that soft rot has not affected the cabbage heads, check for seed stems, and any physical damage to the head which often occurs while in the process of shipping or during the freezing process for storage. The head of cabbages should also be free of diseases from any phytophagous insects, and free of all blemishes caused by mechanical injury to the plant. Once the cabbage head has been cut, it must be utilized in cooking as soon as possible, this is because, the exposure of cut leaves to the ambient air will allow vitamin C to be lost with the evaporating moisture, cut cabbage heads also enable bacteria and microbes in the air to gain a foothold on the tissues.
Using low heat and a stainless steel pan is the ideal way to cook cabbages as this ensures maximum retention of nutrients and essential vitamins present in the vegetable. This form of cooking also avoids excess gas from consumption of cabbage, which is always a possibility due to the fact that the cabbage is high content sulfur food, tending to induce the formation of a lot of gas in the abdomen. The mineral balance and the nutrient concentration can also be maintained if the cooking pan is covered using vacuum top, this type of vessel should be preferred as it ensures wholeness.
To preserve all the essential minerals and nutritional value in the cabbage, the vegetable should not be over cooked, and preferably must be sliced or shredded so as to ensure minimum cooking time is involved; it must also be served and eaten immediately after it is cooked to ensure maximum nutritional value is derived from the meal. The cooking of cabbages is ideally done in combination with other familiar vegetables, with some vegetable starch, or along with a protein rich food. For example, cabbages and apples are considered a delicacy and provide maximum taste and nutrition.
As far as vegetables go, both the red and green varieties of the cabbage are considered among the healthiest, and among the cheapest of all the vitamin rich and protective foods. Cabbage is well known for its high vitamin C content and it is an excellent source for this particular vitamin comparable to the citruses. Where citrus fruits are not available or cannot be consumed due to health reasons, it is possible to supplement vitamin C natural by drinking the raw cabbage juice, this herbal juice of the cabbage can be prepared in a more palatable manner by combining with a much more milder vegetable juice, derived from sources such as the common celery or the juice of the tomato - both of which are also easily available in most markets.
Other nutrients also exist in fair amounts in raw cabbage, thus it is a sufficient source for vitamin A which is found in small amounts, and however vitamins like the thiamine - vitamin B1 are found in high levels in the cabbage. Though it has a very low calorific value, the cabbage is very high in useful roughage and cellulose; it also gives an alkaline chemical reaction in the laboratory. Though some individuals do not take well to red cabbages, it is suggested that the cooked red cabbages are more superior to the cooked white or green varieties and the red cabbage is believed to have better nutritional value as a food. The vitamin A content is still fair even when cabbages are cooked, this is not so for other nutrients such as the vitamin C which is easily lost due to cooking. The essential mineral calcium is also found in high levels in the cabbage, and the outside hard leaves of the cabbage are at least forty percent higher in calcium content, than the leaves found within the cabbage head.
Aside from the already mentioned high calcium content, the cabbage also has high content of other essential minerals. The essential mineral potassium is also found in high quantities in the cabbage, at the same time, the cabbage also contains high amounts of chlorine, it has good amounts of the mineral iodine - essential for the thyroid gland, it has high levels of the essential mineral phosphorus, it has important metabolic salts such as the mineral sodium, and it is also a sulfur rich vegetable. As varieties go, compared to the white and green varieties, the red cabbage contains a little more calcium; however, it possesses lesser amounts of the other essential minerals mentioned.
The sodium content is highest in the Chinese variety of cabbage, in this variety it may reach up to thirty five percent in total. At the other end, the sulfur content of this variety of cabbage is low, as little as two percent compared to ten percent in the red and white cabbages - for this reason, it does not induce as much gas formation as the other two varieties and is preferred by many people. Therapeutically speaking, the red and white cabbage varieties are nearly identical in the amount of different vitamins and minerals they contain and are used in the same roles and remedies.
The herbal poultice for the treatment of external injuries is the best known of all cabbage derived herbal medications. This form of the remedy is prepared using the leaves of the wild or cultivated cabbages. In the process, collected cabbage leaves are initially blanched using hot water, they are then crushed in a mortar, or finely chopped, and the resulting poultice is then applied as a topical herbal salve for the alleviation of different physical swellings, all types of external tumors, and to ease painful joints on the body. To aid in the detoxification of the liver, the leaves of the wild cabbage are often eaten raw or they may be consumed cooked as an aid to digestion. Seen in this light, the ancient Romans' use of the cabbage as a remedy for hangovers can be considered sensible and even clever. The detoxification effect of the cabbage is significant, at the same time, the vegetable is considered very helpful in the treatment of painful arthritis over the long term. The vitamin C deficiency disease called scurvy can be beaten back and cured by eating raw cabbage rich in vitamin C.
Packed cabbage leaves were often used as topical eczema remedies in many parts of Europe in earlier times, as a topical remedy, the cabbage was also used for the treatment of different disorders affecting the legs - including the varicose veins and in the alleviation of leg ulcers of all sorts. Distilled water is added to raw finely chopped cabbage to make this external herbal pack which is applied directly as a topical remedy on affected areas of the body. Linen cloth is used as a wrap over the applied pack, which is first placed firmly along the affected area - the linen holds the pack in place and allows the skin to breathe at the same time. When used as internal as well as external remedy, cabbage is useful mainly due to its high sulfur content, the mineral destroys the ferments within the blood, and this is particularly effective as a treatment for skin disorders of all kinds. Individuals affected by persistent coldness in the feet can benefit by including cabbage in the daily diet, this is because sulfur is considered to be one of those elements that can induce an increase in the production of heat in the body.
Disorders like constipation can be treated using the cabbage. The herb is particularly effectively in overcoming this disorders and using cabbage based remedies may be the best natural remedy for the disorder, for similar reasons, individuals suffering from sluggish intestinal problems can greatly benefit by consuming sauerkraut regularly, the juice of the sauerkraut is equally effective - this dietary remedy is equally beneficial in the treatment of other more serious cases of constipation especially those that are persistent. Serious disorders such as the diabetes may also be treatable or managed by consuming sauerkraut juice, mixed with some lemon juice on a daily basis. The body is stimulated in general by consuming the raw sauerkraut juice. This juice can also be a powerful laxative especially when it is mixed with some tomato juice. The vitamin C and lactic acid content of sauerkraut juice is very high and this endows the juice with many beneficial properties.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
The areas along the English Channel and the Mediterranean region are places where the cabbage originally grew in the wild - the plant is believed to be a native species of these parts. Over the centuries, it spread out from these regions as different cultures made use of it, and nowadays, the cabbage is extensively cultivated worldwide and comes in a myriad of different varieties - it is one of the most common vegetables around the world. Most cuisines worldwide include cabbage as one of their vegetables.