If I lived where my tastebuds would like to reside it would have to be Greece, surrounded by goats feta, spinach, squid, salads with lots of cucumber, yogurt and honey- but sadly I don’t, as we know, I live in London: home of THE CABBAGE (cue dramatic duh duh duhhhhhh).
I detest cabbage and everything it stands for, hypothetically if I were Vivienne Westwood then the humble cabbage would be Margaret Thatcher, we couldn’t be any more different if we tried, and we just don’t get along. Sometimes I wonder if my palette actually does know what’s best for me (in a very hippy kind of ‘the body craves what it needs’ way) and I imagine for a second that cabbage is physically causing me some kind of serious ailment… but I think that realistically that’s just my justification for not eating it. Strange thing is, I don’t really HATE many fruit or veg, there’s corn off the cob (which almost definitely comes from a can, which everyone knows is the devil’s food), cabbage, and brussels sprouts (evil incarnate). I would still eat all these things mind you, say if I was invited to someone’s house for dinner but I’d be subject to the continually waging war between my tastebuds and my stomach (the stomach has thus far won every time).
I’m ashamed to say that whilst writing this I just googled “cabbage is bad for you” just to come up with extra reasons not to eat it, but alas all google did was turn my pessimistic frown upside down and tell me how great it is (it also confirmed what I’d feared, they’re an annual vegetable, meaning they grow YEAR ROUND). Anyway, why am I telling you all this? Because it’s the season of cabbage and brussels sprouts. The vegetables that divide a nation more than marmite or vegemite (and I know which side I’m on!) and because it means that whilst I’m eating seasonally I’m having a terrible time of it all, forcing a smile whilst my tastebuds groan.
I get all of these cabbage the same way I get all my vegetables, from my local, organic, seasonal vegetable box that I receive on a weekly basis, and since it’s winter, for as many weeks as I can remember I’ve been getting cabbage or cabbage-like vegetables from the brassica group [Brassicaceae/ Cruciferae family] (these include turnips, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts… you get the point). It’s gotten to the stage where I’m beginning to dread my vegetable box, and I hate feeling like that because essentially I dread receiving something that’s doing so much good! By getting my local, organic, seasonal vegetable box I’m supporting my community growers, staying true to what the earth is seasonally offering me, cutting down on the milage that many of the competing supermarket vegetables have and cutting down on my plastic waste- obviously all these things are fantastically eco friendly- but what to do when your heart is fighting with your tastebuds?! Well you persevere do it for the greater good, it’s hard but it’s worth it for green the feel good factor in the long run. Sometimes you just have to remain positive in the face of adversity and focus on the good, so here are 10 reasons to LOVE cabbage:
- It is a brain food! It is full of vitamin K and anthocyanins that help with mental function and concentration. These nutrients also prevent nerve damage, improving your defense against Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. Red cabbage has the highest amount of these power nutrients.
- Sulphur, for glowing skin, beautiful hair and nails. Cabbage helps dry up oily and acne prone skin. Ingested internally the high sulfur content is essential for keratin, a protein substance necessary for healthy hair, nails, and skin.
- Helps detoxify the body. The vast quantities of vitamin C and sulphur in cabbage helps to remove toxins (free radicals and uric acid). These nasties are the main causes of arthritis, skin diseases, rheumatism and gout.
- Has well-known cancer preventative compounds lupeol, sinigrin and sulforaphane. These apparently stimulate enzyme activity and inhibit the growth of cancer tumors. A Study on women showed a reduction in breast cancer when cruciferous vegetables like cabbage were added to their diet, and there is lots of talk about how cabbage is a great preventative to colon cancer.
- Helps keep blood pressure from getting high. The high potassium content helps by opening up blood vessels, easing the flow of blood.
- Cabbage for headaches A warm compress made with cabbage leaves can help relieve the pain of a headache. Crush cabbage leaves, place in a cloth, and apply on the forehead. Also, drink raw cabbage juice 1-2 oz. (25-50ml) daily for chronic headaches.
- Hangovers from heavy drinking the romans had the right idea, it’s rumoured they reduced their hangovers by eating cabbage! My festive season just got a little easier!
- Anti-inflammatory and Blood Sugar Regulator. The natural red pigments of red cabbage (betalains) is said to lower blood sugar levels and boost insulin production. Of course it has no white sugars and very few simple sugars. Betalains have powerful anti-inflammatory properties just like beets.
- Lowers your cholesterol. Steamed cabbage is best apparently due to how it binds in the digestive tract, raw cabbage still works, but lightly cooked is best if this is why you’re eating it.
- Supports your digestive tract. Long-established in health research is the role of cabbage juice in helping heal stomach ulcers (called peptic ulcers), but more recent studies on cabbage have looked at the overall health benefits of this food for the stomach and digestive tract as a whole, especially true if it’s fermented into either sauerkraut or kimchi.
Which brings me to HOW you can eat cabbage, since it grows year round you’re going to need a lot of recipes, I’ve started you off with just a few:
- Pad Thai Coleslaw– a delicious alternative to
mask those pungenter, compliment those cabbage flavours
- Colcannon with Irish Stew– the famous irish mash with a hearty stew atop
- Spiced Red Cabbage– this recipe is a BBC fav, I like to add grated apple, a cinnamon stick and star anise (and it’s even half good!)
Fear not, there are some food hacks based on science to help others out there like me overcome the bitter overtones of the brassica family. Try some good quality salt (sel de mer or Maldon), a scatter of hard salty cheese like pecorino or parmesan, even a poached or fried egg on top- it’s a combination of the salty and fatty quality of these foods that help mask the bitterness.
My friend Pete has recommended what he says is a ‘magical’ dish of cabbage, butter, potatoes and cheese layered in a deep dish and baked, I’m yet to test this recipe but stay tuned, he could be onto a winner here, cheers Petey! 🙂
Whilst writing this article I’ve discovered that certain people are SUPERTASTERS and find, among other things, the brassica family of vegetables to be overly bitter, HOLY MOLY, I might’ve just found my superpower, TASTE! I might just be able to conquer the mighty cabbage after all with my newly founded superpowers (unless it turns out to be my kryptonite!). Cue me as a chic cabbage style superhero…
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