The cultivation and consumption of cabbage for food started more than 4,000 years ago. First, wild cabbage was domesticated from which the other cultivars of head cabbage have been bred. In Europe head cabbage has been grown for at least 2,500 years. The first references to the wider cultivation of head cabbages in European mainland date back to the 8th century A.D. In the 11th century white and red cabbage were identified. Historical evidence points out that Savoy cabbage with crinkly leaves was cultivated from the 16th century in France. There are no records as to when the cultivation of head cabbage began in Estonia.
World and Estonia
Nowadays head cabbages form a vegetable group that occupies a significant position in most countries. In addition to tomato, cabbage is the second most widely cultivated vegetable on the world scale. The greatest cabbage cultivators in the world are China, Korea, Indonesia, Japan, the US, Russia; in Europe Poland, Romania, the UK, Germany and Italy. White head cabbage is the most widely cultivated variety in these countries. Apart from white head cabbage, the red variety is grown on a large scale in Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Austria, Germany and Scandinavia. Savoy cabbage is widespread in the Netherlands, France, the UK and Germany.In Estonia white head cabbage occupies first place among vegetables as to its growing area, total production and consumption. Red and Savoy cabbage are quite rare in Estonia.
In terms of nutritional physiology head cabbage is highly valued and deserves to be highlighted for its balancing effect on digestion. The energetic value of cabbage is quite low, yet it contains lots of dietary fibres which stimulate intestinal functions. Head cabbage contains plenty of minerals essential to the human body. It also deserves special attention as to its vitamin content. Apart from potato, cabbage is our main source of C vitamin. It also contains B group, P, K, E, D and U vitamins and carotene. Fresh cabbage also includes mustard oil which has antibiotic qualities. Red and Savoy cabbage are more valuable than white cabbage as to their nutritional value and dietary properties for they contain somewhat more protein and minerals.
Head cabbage is used for food in a variety of ways - boiled, fermented, preserved as well as in the form of juice. It is white head cabbage that is primarily used for fermenting, and red head cabbage is used less frequently for that purpose. Savoy cabbage is not suitable for fermenting due to its high protein content. Red head cabbage makes an excellent ingredient for raw salads and stews or it can be used for garnishing. It also makes a delicious side dish to poultry and game. Savoy cabbage is especially popular in soups, hotchpotches and stews.
Head cabbage is good in case of diabetes. Cabbage consumption helps to remove cholesterol from the body. Freshly squeezed cabbage juice is recommended to be drunk on a regular basis in cases of peptic and duodenal ulcers. Raw cabbage as well as sauerkraut is quite difficult to digest and that is why they should not have a prominent place in the diet of people who suffer from stomach and intestinal problems. Savoy cabbage is somewhat more easily digested than red head cabbage.
Vegetable articles are written by gardening specialist and publicist Leopold Meensalu.