Cabbage is like the grandfather of veggies. Old as the day is long, keeps for ages, delivers an impressive dose of vitamins, and as humble as a vegetable gets. Here are 9 fascinating facts you might not know about cabbage!
1. Cabbage comes from wild mustard. It is a card-carrying member of the Brassica family, an extensive family that includes collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower. Plants with large terminal buds became cabbage, while desirable leaves became kale and collard greens. Chinese broccoli and Brussels sprouts were developed from plants with large lateral buds and the stem was developed to become kohlrabi.
2. Though not ideal, apparently you can survive off of cabbage alone! Or at least the tales say Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, ate nothing but cabbage and drank nothing but water.
3. Cabbage is a hero in times of famine. Historically, cabbage fed people in times of economic depressions and natural disasters (draught). Cabbage became an even more important food staple during the Great Potato Famine (when crop failures were caused by late blight). Beginning in 1845, a potato blight that began in Belgium spread across Europe and had devastating effects in Ireland (where the poor almost completely subsisted on potatoes). Cabbage was inexpensive, readily available, and hardy enough to survive cold winters to feed hungry people.
4. Cabbage was once a luxury (and considered better than most vegetables). Cabbage was most famously used in Ancient Rome and Egypt as a food eaten before a night of drinking to help with tomorrow’s hangover and encourage guests to drink more.
5. Cabbage can relieve headaches. Drinking raw cabbage juice daily, or placing a warm compress filled with crushed cabbage on your forehead may sound crazy, but many headache sufferers swear by this technique!
6. Cabbage prevented scurvy on long journeys. The first cabbage to arrive in North America came from French explorer Jacques Cartier on his 1541 voyage. During sea crossings he brought cabbage in the form of sauerkraut because of its high vitamin C content and ability to last long. The brine was used to treat the wounds of sailers and prevent gangrene.
7. There are 400+ varieties of cabbage. First domesticated in Europe before 1000 BC, and documented even earlier in North China 4000 BC, cabbage was very different than the vegetable we know today. They were non-heading cabbages with thick leaves that retained plenty of water. Most of us know Green Cabbage (Cannonball), Napa Cabbage, Savoy Cabbage, and Red Cabbage. These were most likely an evolution to continue a breed of hardy vegetables, great for retaining water.
8. Cabbage helps with acne. Since cabbage is high in sulfur, the beautifying mineral, it internally evolves into keratin, a protein substance necessary for healthy hair, nails and skin.
9. There were dolls named after it and shopping wars started over them! Apparently the Cabbage Patch Kids were originally invented by a Kentucky artist named Martha Nelson Thomas combining soft-sculpture with quilting skills but were stolen by an art student, Xavier Roberts who decided to make his own version and sell them at an “adoption fee” of $40. Soon after, the dolls were flying off of shelves and fights broke out between shoppers who wanted their hands on this kid-favourite.
All is to say, as a vegetable, cabbage may not be flying off of the grocery shelves (just yet! it it making a comeback) but it is indeed a cult classic. Everybody has a favourite slaw recipe or enjoys cabbage steamed, pickled, stewed, sautéed, or even braised. Choose a head heavy in size with crisp firm packed leaves and enjoy it in some of our favourite ways: with Baba’s Ukrainian Cabbage Rolls and DIY Tie Dye Sauerkraut.