National Cabbage Day

Home garden crops like the one grown by Gilbert Bernard, 82, are seeing their winter vegetables come to maturity. He keeps a garden growing all year depending on the vegetable of the season.

There’s more to the cabbage family than colors

Today is National Cabbage Day, observed annually on February 17. With St. Patrick’s Day one month away, it’s a perfect time to test out recipes with cabbage, a staple ingredient for Celtic holidays.

Francine Garzotto has been escaping to Cypremort Point with friends the past couple of years She was recently invited back but was told she has to take the cabbage casserole as a contributing dish for the weekend. Last year it was a big hit.

When inquiring whether individuals like cabbage, both fans and foes of equal numbers responded. Even if someone likes the taste, more than one said their digestive system does not like it. Cabbage also can be overcooked according to some area cooks who prefer a cruncher dish.

Garzotto said coming from a German family she can remember her father doing the annual fermenting of the green leaves.

“He would slice the cabbage very thin and layer it in a food crock with salt,” Garzotto said. “Layer after layer of cabbage with salt and then he’d put a big stone on top to mash it down.”

She said as the cabbage fermented into sauerkraut, the stone on top would drop farther down in the crock. The cabbage was preserved for eating out of season.

“He would also make a homemade brew out of fruit burying the container under the ground,” she said, “Sometimes forgetting where he buried it until the mixture burped and showed itself.”

Her family were farmers in Nebraska arriving in America before World War II. Her father enlisted in the U.S. Army by lying about his age. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was fighting his own countrymen only miles from Hitler’s bunker. The later years of his life he shared many stories with Garzotto who loves to share these stories now.

Growing Cabbage

Gigi Kerns said she didn’t have any interesting stories about cabbage but plans to write down her recipe for Ruby Red Borscht to submit for the cookbook this year. Cabbage is one ingredient.

“Back in the days I had a vegetable garden,” Kerns said, “I did enjoy planting and eating Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage. It’s an heirloom variety with exceptionally sweet taste and pointed heads.”

Farmers markets are now bringing in the winter vegetable evidenced by the development of Gilbert Bernard’s cabbage grown near The Daily Iberian. Workers often admire his beautiful vegetables and fruits as they ripen in the midst of workers moving in and out of the parking lot.

The Nature of Cabbage

The French word for “head” is caboche, giving cabbage its name and a much larger variety of forms than the traditional green or purple “cabbage.”  The cabbage family is varied and includes kale, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, collard greens, mustard greens, turnips and even watercress as part of the food group. The group also mentions horseradish, radishes and rutabaga.

When selecting a cabbage, the head should be firm and dense. The fibrous leaves of a good cabbage should be shiny and crisp with no browning or bruising.

Cabbage is versatile and can be eaten raw, steamed or sautéed.  A popular ingredient in Asian, German, Irish and Latin recipes, it’s a culturally diverse food.

Health Benefits

Surfing the net provides an eye opening resource for understanding the types of vegetables included in the “cabbage” family or the cruciferous vegetable group, which includes many leafy vegetables.

WHFoods.org said that in terms of conventional nutrients this group is high in vitamin A carotenoids, vitamin C, folic acid and fiber. The cruciferous vegetables are simply superstars in the conventional nutrient areas.

Research the past five years has shown the vitamin K content of cruciferous vegetables, especially kale and collards, has shown significant benefits for fighting cancer and inflammation, the website reported.

According to MedicalNewsToday.com, the fiber and water content in cabbage also helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract.

Today’s recipes are a collection from Teche Area cooks who have competed in The Daily Iberian annual cook-off. Confront timidity about the controversial vegetable. Perhaps one of these recommended dishes will provide a new alternative for not only National Cabbage Day, but all year.

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