Four percent of the cabbage grown in the world is grown in the United States on 82,000 acres across the country.
Texas, Florida and New York provide the winter supply. China provides 38 percent worldwide.
The slang word for head in French is caboche and is believed to be the origin of the word cabbage. The French also use mon petit chou as an endearment meaning my little cabbage.
Cabbage originated in Western Europe where it was originally used for treating headaches, gout and intestinal disorders. Cabbage juice was used as an anti-toxin and many people drink it today for its health benefits. Thomas Jefferson grew 22 varieties at Monticello.
In the United States, cabbage is used for coleslaw, packaged salad mix, sauerkraut, egg rolls, soup flavoring, corned beef and cabbage and the fresh produce market.
Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and kale belong to the same plant family Cruciferae or mustard, in the genus Brassica.
Cabbages smell pungent when they cook because sulfur compounds are released when they are heated. Cooking them uncovered reduces the problem.
The three types of cabbage include the regular green heads commonly found in produce departments. The pointed types are grown in the south. Red cabbage (rubra) looks just like round -head cabbage but is purple.
Savoy cabbage (Sabauda) has crinkled, yellow-green leaves. Chinese cabbage (Brassica pekinesis) is also called napa pe-tsai or Peking cabbage. It is sweeter and milder than the round-headed types.
Bok choy (Brassica chinensis) is called white mustard cabbage or Chinese white.
Cabbage and its relatives are good sources of vitamin C and A, thiamin, riboflavin, potassium and fiber. They are low in calories, fat and cholesterol. Research indicates that cabbage family vegetables may contain anti-cancer agents.
The Chinese produced wine-pickled cabbage 2,000 years ago and German cooks fermented cabbage with salt by the 16th century. Sauerkraut means sour cabbage. Salt fermented cabbage keeps well and is high in vitamin C so it was taken on ships to prevent scurvy.
German immigrants brought sauerkraut to America and it is often served on hot dogs, Reuben sandwiches and made into sauerkraut cake.
Cabbage’s cousin kale, is an ancient vegetable from the Mediterranean with the same health benefits.
In Scotland, kitchen gardens were known as kaleyards and dinner was called kail. If you were too sick to eat you were off your kail.
In 1929, Howard Dorsett traveled to Asia on behalf of the United States Department of Agriculture. Among the 9,000 specimens he brought home were ornamental kale seeds which were available to home gardeners by 1936.
Garden centers sell ornamental cabbage and ornamental kale (Brassica oleracea). It is used to decorate salad bars and is planted as an ornamental addition to fall gardens to go with pansies and chrysanthemums.
Ornamental kale has colorful foliage and in catalogs and garden centers both are called flowering cabbage and kale. Their ornamental value comes from the pretty leaves and rosettes rather than from flowers.
Kale is genetically closer to the native or wild cabbage since it does not form a central head. Botanically, they are biennials producing leaves the first year and seed the second.
Cabbage and kale are not heat tolerant so pre-chilled seeds are started 10 weeks before first frost. Do not cover the seeds — they need light to germinate.
The most vivid colors come with temperatures below 50 degrees. They can remain beautiful down to five degrees.
Ornamental kale and cabbage plants do best in a moist, sunny location. When transplanting to the garden, the lowest leaves should be planted flush with the soil level.
They are safe to eat and use as garnishes.
Ornamental cabbage varieties include Color-up, Osaka, Pigeon, and Tokyo. Ornamental kale varieties include Chidori, Flamingo Plumes, Frizzy, Peacock and Sparrow.