Cabbage or headed cabbage (Brassica oleracea cultivars) is a leafy green or purple biennial plant grown for its dense-leaved heads as an annual vegetable crop. It is a descendant of B. oleracea var. oleracea, the wild cabbage, and is closely related to broccoli and cauliflower (var. botrytis), Brussels sprouts (var. gemmifera), and savoy cabbage (var. sabauda), all of which are sometimes referred to as cole crops. Cabbage heads come in a variety of colors and sizes, ranging from 0.5 to 4 kilograms (1 to 9 lb).
Smooth-leafed firm-headed green cabbages are the most common, with smooth-leafed red and crinkle-leafed savoy cabbages of both colors seen more rarely. It is a multi-layered vegetable. Under conditions of long sunlit days such as are found at high northern latitudes in summer, cabbages can grow much larger. Some records are discussed at the end of the history section.
While savoys were not produced until the 16th century, cabbage was most likely domesticated somewhere in Europe before 1000 BC. Cabbage had become a staple of European cuisine by the Middle Ages. Cabbage heads are typically harvested within the first year of a plant’s life cycle, but seed plants are allowed to grow for a second year and must be kept separate from other cole crops to avoid cross-pollination. Cabbage is susceptible to a variety of nutritional shortages, pests, and bacterial and fungal diseases.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, global production of cabbage and other brassicas was 71.8 million metric tonnes in 2014, with China accounting for 47 percent of the total.
Cabbage can be prepared in a variety of ways for consumption. Steamed, stewed, sautéed, braised, or eaten fresh, they can be pickled, fermented for dishes like sauerkraut, steamed, stewed, sautéed, braised, or eaten raw. Cabbage is high in vitamins K and C, as well as dietary fiber. Human cases of foodborne illness have been attributed to contaminated cabbage.
The leafy head, or more specifically, the spherical cluster of immature leaves, except the partially unfolded outer leaves, is the only part of the plant that is usually eaten. The so-called ‘cabbage head’ is used in a wide range of dishes, whether fresh, fried or preserved. Cabbage is a vegetable that comes in the form of a leaf. For salads like coleslaw, raw cabbage is normally cut into thin strips or shreds. In salads, it can also be used in place of iceberg lettuce.
Cabbage is often used in soups and stews. Cabbage soup is common in Central and Eastern Europe, and cabbage is used in some borscht recipes. Cabbage is also used in a variety of Indian dishes. Boiling the leaves tenderizes them and releases sugars, giving them the distinct “cabbage” scent. Because of its strong cooking odor and the misconception that it causes flatulence, boiled cabbage has been stigmatized in North America. Boiled cabbage can be a good source of vitamins and dietary fiber when served alongside meats and other dishes. Cabbage rolls are a common dish in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Parboiling or freezing the entire head of cabbage softens the beans, which are then filled with chopped meat and/or rice.
Cabbage is used to make sauerkraut in Germany, suan cai in China, and kimchi in Korea. To pickle cabbage, put it in a container, cover it with water and salt, and leave it to ferment for several days. Sauerkraut was traditionally made in big quantities at home to store food for the winter. Cabbage can also be pickled in vinegar with a variety of spices, either alone or with other vegetables. Baechu kimchi in Korea is commonly sliced thicker than in Europe, and onions, chillies, minced garlic, and ginger are frequently added.
Cabbage is a high-quality source of vitamin C. It also has a high glutamine content, which is an amino acid with anti-inflammatory properties. Cabbage leaves are used to treat acute inflammation in European folk medicine. To relieve pain, a raw cabbage paste can be wrapped in a cabbage leaf and wrapped around the affected region. Some say it can help women with painfully engorged breasts who are breastfeeding.
Cabbage comes in a wide variety of shapes and maturation times. “Late Flat Dutch,” “Early Jersey Wakefield” (a conical variety), and “Danish Ballhead” are all traditional variations (late, round -headed). Savoy Cabbage has crinkled leaves and a round head. Red cabbage is a round-headed, small cabbage with dark red leaves. Krautman is the most popular sauerkraut variety used in commercial processing.