SAVOY CABBAGE, BRASSICA OLEOROSA (capitata var. saboude L.)
The green cabbages are all descendants of a wild leafy cabbage which was cultivated so that it became a head (capitata) cabbage. It is believed that the
Savoy cabbage was developed in the Savoy region in the 15th century, which at the time encompassed parts of France, Italy and Switzerland. It is the crinkly-leaved cabbage which, like the red cabbage has unique health benefits if steamed or lightly sautéed. The savoy cabbage is closely related to the other members of the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family which include broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts and collard or spring greens.
Cabbages may have come from
China via Egypt into Europe, although they more likely were indigenous to the Mediterranean region and Greece, as there are wild mustard plants that grow near the sea which could have been ancestors. They were known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who used them for both food and medicine as it was believed that cabbage could promote milk-flow in lactating women. However they were also regarded as a nuisance and not grown near grape vines as they were thought to impart their flavour to the vines and so spoil the wine. Nowadays, they are disliked by children because of their taste, but this can be disguised by trying our recipe below.
You can also substitute steamed cabbage leaves for vine leaves as in our dolmades recipe.
The cabbage was a staple food for European peasants between the 14th and 19th centuries, along with heavy dark bread. It is a winter vegetable and the Dutch and Germans fermented it and made sauerkraut which was eaten by Dutch sailors to prevent scurvy on the voyages of discovery to what is now
Indonesia. Cabbage was introduced to North America by the early German settlers who also gave the continent sauerkraut.
Writing his herbal in the 17th century, had this to say of cabbages (‘coleworts’ include cabbage and cauliflower)
“Government and virtues. The cabbage or coleworts boiled gently in broth, and eaten, do open the body, but the second decoction doth bind the body: the juice thereof drunk in wine, helpeth those that are bitten by an adder; and the decoction of the flowers bringeth down women's courses. Being taken with honey, it recovereth hoarseness or loss of the voice: the often eating of them, well boiled, helpeth those that are entering into a consumption: the pulp of the middle ribs of colewort, boiled in almond milk, and made up into an electuary with honey, being taken often, is very profitable for those that are pursy or short-winded; being boiled twice and an old cock boiled in the broth, and drunk, helpeth the pains and the obstructions of the liver and spleen, and the stone in the kidneys; the juice boiled with honey, and dropped into the corner of the eyes, cleareth the sight, by consuming any film or cloud beginning to dim it; it also consumeth the canker growing therein. They are much commended being eaten before meat to keep one from surfeiting, as also from being drunk with too much wine, and quickly make a drunken man sober; for as they say, there is such an antipathy or enmity between the vine and the colewort, that the one will die where the other groweth. The decoction of coleworts taketh away the pains and achs, and allayeth the swellings of swoln or gouty legs and knees wherein many gross and watery humours are fallen, the place being bathed therewith warm: it helpeth also old and filthy sores being bathed therewith, and healeth all small scabs, pushes, and wheals, that break out in the skin; the ashes of colewort-stalk, mixed with old hog's-grease, are very effectual to anoint the sides of those that have had long pains therein, or any other place pained with melancholy and windy humours. Cabbages are extreme windy, whether you take them as meat or as medicine: but colewort-flowers are something more tolerable, and the wholesomer food of the two. The Moon challengeth the dominion of the herb.”
The savoy cabbage has been shown to have unique health benefits, but only if steamed lightly or sautéed lightly. It is a good source of sinigrin which has been the subject of cancer research. The sinigrin found in cabbages converts in the body to allylisothiocyanate (AITC) a compound which has been found to have cancer-protective properties, particularly against bladder, colon and prostate cancers. However if you cook cabbage by long boiling it looses these health-giving properties.
Eastern Europe, cabbage is frequently cooked with juniper berries (4 is sufficient for four people) or caraway seeds (1 teaspoon for four people). However cabbage is usually boiled to death and so the nutrients and health-giving substances are lost. The best way of using a cabbage is to shred or chop it and then let it rest for 5 minutes before steaming or lightly sautéing it.
Why not try this recipe for stir-fried savoy cabbage served on a bed of brown rice mixed with wild rice?
CABBAGE AND CASHEW NUTS SAVOY
¾ pound of savoy cabbage, shredded and left to settle for 5 minutes before frying
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 ounces cashew nuts (unsalted)
1 red pepper, finely diced
½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps sunflower oil
Heat the oils and add the onion and garlic, and fry until the onion is a pale golden colour.
Add the red pepper, spices, cashew nuts and cabbage and stir-fry for 5 minutes.
When the cabbage is wilted a little it is ready.
Serve on a bed of rice as suggested above.
This has Taste and is a Treat.
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