Planning a vegetable garden this year? Consider cabbage.
Cabbage is often-overlooked gem in vegetable garden.
I didn’t make any resolutions on New Year’s Day but I did eat cabbage. That’s because cabbage is reputed to bring prosperity. And to ensure that the roof of your house won’t blow off.Skip to next paragraph
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We spent a boatload of money to have our roof replaced in 2009 and we are perched on a windy site, so we could do with both the prosperity and the guarantee against gusts and gales.
Although I don’t dote on cabbage, as the Greeks and Romans are said to have done, I do give it more respect than did the 17th-century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper. He focused on its flatulence-producing effect, writing that “Cabbages are extremely windy… as windy…as can be eaten, unless you eat Bagpipes or Bellows.”
Culpeper might have been less faultfinding had he known that raw cabbage is one of the garden’s best sources of Vitamin C — more per calorie than orange juice — and an excellent source of dietary fiber. It’s also a vegetable recommended for losing weight, although I wouldn’t wish a cabbage soup diet on anyone. Nor do most doctors.
Cabbage was one of the vegetables brought early to North America, first to Canada in the 16th century by the French navigator Jacques Cartier. It’s been largely uphill since then. Despite the many ways it can be prepared in the kitchen — a Google search of “cabbage, recipes” turns up 3,410,000 — cabbage gets little respect from gastronomes.
And not a whole lot more from plant breeders. Cultivars may number in the hundreds, but don’t expect a wheelbarrowful of new cabbages every spring.
All-America Selections, which trials new vegetables and flowers for home gardeners, has awarded its prized red, white, and blue seal to a cabbage only 16 times since 1934. (The last award was in 2000 for ‘Savoy Express’.)
In Seed Savers Exchange's inventory, the number of commercially available nonhybrid cabbages decreased by more than half between 1980 and 2000, one of only a handful of vegetables to “lose” so many varieties.