As one of the oldest and most underrated vegetables available, it is easy to overlook the humble cabbage when compiling a list of ‘things I really really want to eat today.’ If your ancestors were European you probably have some deep cellular aversion to the vegetable, inexplicably making a subconcious connection between the word ‘cabbage’ and the dish, ‘boiled cabbage.’ There are valid reasons for this. When your great-great-great-great-great grandparents were children they almost certainly recited little rhymes that helped them remember dangers they were to avoid if they wished to make it through childhood alive. Since our antique germanic is a little rusty it would be difficult to recount those threats here in an entertaining rhyming ditty, but they would have included things like venomous snakes, large elk, vikings and, yes, boiled cabbage. Because boiled cabbage is not right. That is all.
Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s focus on the glories of this multi-layered veg. The most well known benefit of cabbage is that it is incredibly high in fibre, especially raw, which makes cabbage salad a power meal for good gut health. Incidentally, the word coleslaw is an anglicised version of the Dutch word koolsla, which took root in the English language when early New York was flooded with Dutch settlers who had to make culinary amends for the great pickled herring debacle of 1598. It’s not just the high fibre, though. Cabbage – especially cabbage juice – is extremely high in mucilaginous polysaccharides that coat the stomach and combat ulcers. Cabbage also packs a good dose of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and a number of other vitamins, but most impressively releases cancer-fighting isothiocyanates when digested. For more information about how cabbage combats cancer read here.
But the last word on cabbage is reserved for sauerkraut – mainly because we love it. Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage and contains gut friendly lactobacillus bacteria, which help break food – especially tough-to-digest pork – down for more efficient digestion. It’s Korean cousin kimchi does all of this with some chilli for extra power, but in the case of both ferments it is important that they sit for a few weeks before eating to maximise benefits. We’ll admit upfront that sauerkraut and kimchi release potent aromas that are either loved or hated, so be very sure before you put a bowl of either in place of the potpourri on your lounge coffee table.