All the plant foods we cultivate and eat have a history. Our human history is rich in folklore and stories that were inspired by the very foods we eat. In this article let’s uncover the cabbage and find out what it is really made of.
Cabbage is one of the oldest edible varieties of vegetables. A small plant, Brassica oleracea, with firm, fleshy leaves which grew along the coastal areas of all of Europe. It was first eaten for its stems and then as cabbages were cultivated the heads became rounder and bigger evolving into the form we know today. From these early beginnings this plant became the source of over 400 varieties. From this evolved kohlrabi, canola, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale and more. Cabbage is a member of the mustard (Cruciferae) family and is related to horseradish, radishes, watercress and nasturtiums. All these plants give off sulfur; mustard oils.
These mustard oils brought the elements of air and fire into the bodies of hardy northern Europeans and spread warmth throughout their bodies as they lived in the cold, wet climate of these regions. Cabbage provided lots of vitamin C along with A, B2, E and B3(Niacin) as well as iodine, minerals and iron.
From the regular consumption of cabbage remedies were formulated and became common knowledge. Many of us have heard of cabbage poultices use to relieve sore muscles, neuralgia and rheumatism. A cabbage plaster on the chest was a common practice to assist with bronchial and asthmatic conditions. The mustard oils draw blood to the surface of the skin which causes heat and draws out toxins and poisons. Cabbage juice has been used to treat ulcers.
Sauerkraut was arguably one of the first preserved plant foods. Neolithic people of Northern Europe were already eating a type of fermented soup made from the young leaves, buds and shoots of birch trees. The Germanic tribes of the north brought these foods with them during invasions with the south and adapted the recipes to plants native to the regions.
Sauerkraut became one of the very first manufactured foods during the 17th century and evolved from the first small scale production of pressed oils and wine, salting and pickling of meats and other foods.
Babies being born in the cabbage patch came from French folklore and may have morphed from the practice of bringing newlywed couples cabbage soup in the morning after their wedding night. The tale of the Wolf, Sheep and Cabbage needing to cross the river has origins in Estonian riddle telling. Cabbages got their family name Cruciferae because their flowers have four petals arranged in a cross with arms of equal length. This is an ancient symbol for the sun.
Our foods play such an important role to our health and well being. Next time you are consuming a member of this terrifically nutritious variety of plants remember its story. The story of cabbage brings the energy of lightness, air and fire into our being.