Cabbage, a dietary staple
Cabbage is a leafy green vegetable even when it is red or purple. It’s grown as an annual vegetable crop because of the density of the heads, which usually range in weight from 1-9 pounds, and it is one of the most common staples in our modern diets.
People all over the world eat cabbage on a regular basis. Its so versatile it can be cooked into many dishes. It can be pickled, fermented, steamed, stewed, sauteed, braised, or eaten raw. Cooked cabbage goes great with potatoes, onions, and carrots, but one of the most popular cabbage dishes is Cole slaw.
Cabbage belongs to the family of cruciferous vegetables and is closely related to broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and kohlrabi. These six vegetables are simply different subspecies and varieties of the Brassica oleraceae species.
The Cannonball variety is a small green cabbage that some people describe as a giant Brussel sprout. Its head is tightly packed and crisp, making it ideal for Cole slaw or sauerkraut.
Bok Choy is a Chinese variety, but it grows into thick crisp stems with tender leaves. Similar to Swiss Chard and spinach, it make a good ingredient in sautéed and stir-fried dishes. Chinese varieties don’t form heads, but have blade-like leaves which form clusters.
Red Drumhead Cabbage is a bit tougher than green cabbages and has a deeper flavor. Red cabbages used to be thought of as a winter crop and were favored for pickling. One thing framers appreciate when growing them, red cabbages attract fewer pests, and therefore are harvested with fewer blemishes.
Savoy Cabbage has crinkly and curly leaves which range in color from pale green to deep forest green. Only the outer leaves are crinkled or curly as the heart is smoother and very light in color. Some people prefer this variety because, while cooking, it doesn’t have the odor associated with other cabbage varieties.
Health Benefits of Cabbage
Of all the cruciferous vegetables, cabbage has the highest content of the most powerful antioxidants. These are called phytonutrients like thiocyanates, lutein, zeaxanthin, isothiocyanates, and sulforaphane, which stimulate the enzymes that detoxify the body. Phytonutrients protect against various cancers, lower LDL cholesterol, and protects against heart disease and high blood pressure.
This leafy green delivers a lot of vitamins and minerals the body needs to stay healthy and function properly. When its fermented it becomes filled with probiotics, and the microbes help to develop the flavor. The enzymes produced by fermenting the vegetable make vitamins and minerals easier to absorb. The fiber and water content can prevent and resolve constipation, and other digestive issues. Cabbage’s dietary fiber can play a role in weight loss, and even in decreases the risk of developing diabetes.
Vitamin K, which is important for bone metabolism, is also a preventative for Altzheimer’s disease because it limits neuron damage in the brain. Among the vitamins contained in cabbage is our old friend, vitamin C. A 1-cup serving of cabbage contains more vitamin C than oranges, and its also a great source for vitamin B6, folate, and manganese, thiamin (vitamin B1), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). It provides iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium for strong bones, and potassium for regulating the heart rate and blood pressure.
Cabbage can be difficult to grow because likes chilly weather and it is so attractive to many insects, worms, and animals. Cabbage worms, aphids, beetles and loopers love the succulent leaves, and so do rabbits and deer. With a bit of careful planning, a farmer can manage two harvests a year, making it a profitable vegetable to grow.
You’ll want to start seeds indoors about 6 weeks before the projected date of the last frost of winter for a Spring harvest, and 8-10 weeks before the first projected frost of winter for a Fall harvest. Seedlings need to be hardened off before transplanting, so set your seedlings out in the sun for a while on mild days. That will allow the seedlings to become accustomed to the outdoor temperatures before planting.
Add compost or manure while you are tilling your soil, then just let it rain on your newly prepared field. Transplant your seedlings to the outdoors 2 or 3 weeks before the last expected frost date in the Spring, or 8-10 weeks before the first expected frost date in the Fall. Try planting on a cloudy day when the sun is not so intense.
Set your plants 12 to 24 inches apart to prevent crowding as the leaves begin to spread. Apply a thick layer of mulch around the plantings to retain moisture in the soil and deter the growth of weeds. Fertilize about 3 weeks after planting. Cabbages like to have about 2 inches of water every week.
Harvest your cabbage when the heads reach the desired size and are firm. This usually takes about 70 days. Cut the head from its stem with a knife and get it to the shade quickly. You can store cabbage in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, or up to 3 months in a root cellar.
Southern Belle Organics recommends a rainbow-colored diet which includes plenty of cruciferous vegetables, root crops, and of course, lots of our organically grown berries.
Instead of focusing on a “weight-loss diet” just eat more unprocessed foods, like raw fruits and vegetables, and watch the excess weight melt away.
One word of caution, if you take any medicinal blood-thinners it is important not to suddenly start eating a lot of foods that are rich in vitamin K, because vitamin K plays a key role in helping the blood to clot.
Its best to consult with your physician when considering adding new foods to your diet.