Full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, cabbage needs to be a regular in your kitchen


Full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, cabbage needs to be a regular in your kitchen

 

With its high concentrations of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, cabbage is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. As a cruciferous veggie, in the same family as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, it also contains glucosinolates, phytochemicals that break down into indoles, sulforaphane and other cancer-preventive substances.

Different types of cabbage (red, green and Savoy) contain different patterns of glucosinolates, which suggests you should try to eat a variety of cabbage for the best health effects. Its variety is another one of cabbage’s pluses — it comes in hundreds of different types and is incredibly versatile. Eaten raw, cabbage is a mainstay of cole slaw and other summer salads. It’s also one of the most popular base vegetables for creating your own homemade sauerkraut.

 

Cooked lightly and quickly, cabbage also makes an excellent side dish to virtually any protein source and can be seasoned in a number of different ways depending on the type of cuisine. You may be tempted to rely on your local grocery store for cabbage, but growing your own is so much more rewarding, both in terms of freshness and flavor. What’s more, growing cabbage is incredibly easy, and if you time your planting right you can expect to harvest it during the summer as well as the late cold-weather season.

Choose the Right Varieties for the Growing Season

Cabbage is one of those vegetables that taste better after a frost. This is because as temperatures drop, the cold causes the plants to break down energy stores into sugar, leading to a sweeter, tastier flavor. Some types of cabbage can even be grown in temperatures as low as 26 degrees F.

Most winter veggies are planted in mid- to late summer so they are strong and ready for when the temperatures drop, and then ripe for harvest in winter or early spring. Timing this depends on how long each plant takes to reach maturity, however, and this is where choosing the proper varieties is key.

While some cabbage plants reach maturity in 90 days, early varieties take just 60 days to reach maturity. Further, you’ll probably want to plant a crop to harvest during the summer months, as well.

 

As Rodale’s Organic Life noted, “Cabbage thrives in cool weather. In most areas, you can plant an early crop for fresh eating and a late crop — usually the more problem free and tastier of the two — primarily for winter storage. Choose early varieties such as ‘Primax’ for summer harvest; midseason and late-season cultivars for storage.” Additional recommended varieties, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, include the following:

  • “If you are planting for a fall harvest, try red or Chinese cabbage. Good varieties include ‘Ruby Perfection’ and ‘Lei-Choy.’
  • For quick harvest time, try ‘Golden Acre,’ ‘Primo’ or ‘Stonehead.’
  • ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’ resists splitting.
  • Disease-resistant varieties include ‘Blue Vantage’ and ‘Cheers.’”

Other considerations in cabbage variety include size, color and texture. With its variety of cool hues and ruffled and crinkled leaves, many people plant cabbage as much for its ornamental appeal as they do for its culinary uses. Some of the more popular varieties to consider include:

Savoy cabbage, which has dark green, crinkled outer leaves Red cabbage, which contains antioxidant anthocyanins that give it its purple color
Napa cabbage, also called Chinese cabbage, matures quickly and has a mild flavor Green cabbage, which comes in a variety of sizes with differing times to maturity
Pointed cabbage, which forms conical heads, helping to protect it from insects Mini cabbages, such as the “Gonzales” variety, which can be harvested when they’re 6 inches in diameter, making them ideal for small gardens

It’s Easy to Start Cabbage From Seed

While you can purchase cabbage plants at most garden centers, it’s easy to grow them yourself from seed. Start seeds indoors eight to 10 weeks before your last frost of the spring for summer harvests, and 12 to 14 weeks before your first fall frost for late varieties. “Place in a sunny spot or under lights with temperatures between 60 degrees and 70 degrees F, and keep the soil uniformly moist. When daytime temperatures reach 50 degrees F and seedlings have three leaves, plant them outdoors,” Rodale’s Organic Life recommends. In addition, they note:

“Plant seedlings in the garden slightly deeper than they grew in flats. Space 6 to 12 inches apart in rows 1 to 2 feet apart. Wide spacings produce bigger heads, but young, small cabbages are tastier. To get both, plant 6 inches apart and harvest every other one before maturity. Stagger plantings at 2-week intervals for a longer harvest. tart your late crop in midsummer, sowing seeds in flats or directly in the garden. Space these seedlings farther apart than the spring crop.”

As for seeds, look for non-GMO, organic seeds or consider saving seeds from your own crop. The latter may be a challenge, as cabbage produces seed in its second year (it’s a biennial crop). This means only areas with mild winters will allow the seedlings to survive through the winter and produce seeds come summer. An alternative is to transfer cabbage plants in a cool place for the purpose of harvesting seeds the next growing season, according to Mother Earth News:

“In colder climates, growers dig cabbage plants and move them to a cool root cellar for winter, burying the plants’ roots in buckets of moist sawdust. The stored heads are trimmed and replanted in early spring.”

Cabbage Planting Tips

A sunny, well-drained spot works best, and healthy soil will help your cabbage plants to thrive. Adding organic compost to your soil is recommended, as is a layer of mulch or wood chips to help lock in moisture. If your cabbage leaves start to yellow, adding compost tea, which is basically the liquid from compost steeped in water, to the soil as an extra feeding may boost plant growth and encourage faster maturation.

Cabbage plants are heavy feeders, meaning they deplete the soil of nutrients relatively quickly. Because of this, it’s best to plant them apart from other heavy feeders like broccoli and cauliflower. In addition, rotate crops each year to discourage diseases. Excess water (including heavy rain) can cause cabbages to split. If you notice a split starting, or expect a heavy rain to hit, use a spade to sever the plant’s roots in one or two spots, or twist the plant, pulling up slightly, to dislodge the roots.

Both methods will slow the plant’s growth, preventing splitting and bolting. If the cabbage does split, don’t worry — it can still be used to make sauerkraut. As for pests, many, including harlequin bugs, slugs, snails and cabbage worms can be removed by hand (be sure to check the undersides of leaves). Damage from cutworms can be prevented by placing a “collar” made from a plastic cup around young seedlings (push it down about 1 inch into the soil). Common diseases to watch out for include the following:

“Black leg, a fungal disease, forms dark spots on leaves and stems. Black rot symptoms include black and foul-smelling veins. Club root prevents water and nutrient absorption. Fusarium wilt, also known as yellows, produces yellow leaves and stunted heads. Remove and destroy plants affected by these diseases. If club root has been a problem in your garden, test soil pH before planting and add ground limestone if needed to raise the pH to at least 6.8.”

Simple Harvest Tips

When the cabbage head is firm to the touch, use a sharp knife to cut it from the stalk. Heads that don’t feel firm are not yet ready for harvest. Smaller cabbage heads will often grow from the stem, provided you leave the outer leaves and roots, so don’t pull it out of the ground yet. If you’re not interested in encouraging a second crop to grow, the loose outer leaves can be tossed into your compost pile or eaten — it’s up to you.

Once the harvest is complete, pull the stem and root from the ground and compost the remainders (as long as the plant is healthy; avoid throwing diseases plants into your compost bin). Store cabbage in your refrigerator for two weeks or in cold storage (32 degrees to 40 degrees F) for five or six months (the latter being perfect for your winter harvest).

If you’re wondering how much cabbage to grow, Mother Earth News recommends about three cabbage plants per person for enjoying fresh and four plants per person (in addition) for storing cabbage to make sauerkraut. Cabbage is best prepared as close to raw as possible, sometimes called tender-crisp, to preserve its many nutrients.

Cabbage can also be juiced and fermented, which will provide your body with healthy amounts of beneficial bacteria and, if certain starter cultures are used, vitamin K2.

Ready to Enjoy? Healthy Cabbage Crunch Salad

There are many reasons to give cabbage a regular appearance at your mealtimes. It contains powerful antioxidants like vitamins A and C and phytonutrients such as thiocyanates, lutein, zeaxanthin, isothiocyanates and sulforaphane, which stimulate detoxifying enzymes and may protect against breast, colon and prostate cancers. Cabbage also contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory nutrients to help keep inflammation in check.

Among them are anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol that, as mentioned, is particularly plentiful in red cabbage, although all types of cabbage contain anti-inflammatory polyphenols. Cabbage also contains healthy amounts of B vitamins, including folate (which is better than the synthetic form known as folic acid found in many supplements), vitamin B6, vitamin B1 and vitamin B5.

B vitamins are not only important for energy, they may also slow brain shrinkage by as much as seven-fold in brain regions specifically known to be most impacted by Alzheimer’s disease.

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If you’re looking for a recipe to enjoy your cabbage raw that’s a bit different than typical cole slaw recipes, try this healthy Cabbage Crunch Recipe. With fresh ginger, miso paste and ground sesame, along with both red and green cabbage, it’s packed with both intense flavor and valuable nutrition.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 1/2 head red cabbage, chopped finely
  • 1/2 head white cabbage, chopped finely
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced (optional)

For the Dressing:

  • 1 teaspoon gomasio (ground sesame with salt)
  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste* (optional)

Procedure

  1. Mix the cabbage with the chopped onions. Add cilantro and jalapeno.
  2. Place all the dressing ingredients into a food processor and blend briefly. Mix into salad mix and serve.

What Is Broccoli Good For?


Broccoli and Beyond

Botanical name: Brassica

As the leading member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, the word “broccoli” means “branch” or “arm” for the cross-shaped stems, like mini trees bearing the blossoms. Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale also are crucifers.

A popular food of the ancient Romans, broccoli once grew wild on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Its use can be traced to 16th century France and England in the 1700s, with commercial growth beginning in the U.S. in the 1920s.

Broccoli has branched out, so to speak, to a number of its closest relatives: Broccoli raab doesn’t have the tree-like “heads” we’re used to, but resembles broccoli florets on long, thin stems. Its cousin, broccoli rapini, has fewer florets and a mustard-like flavor. Broccoflower, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower, is pale green with densely packed heads like cauliflower, but tastes like broccoli. Chinese broccoli has broad, glossy, blue-green leaves with long, crisp, thick stems and a small head. If you run across Broccolini (baby broccoli), it’s a trademarked name for a broccoli and Chinese kale hybrid, with a long, juicy stem topped with tiny florets.

Health Benefits of Broccoli

Eaten raw, broccoli has a number of nutritional elements. It’s important to note that broccoli is best when eaten raw, because cooking and processing destroys some of its antioxidants. It has twice the vitamin C of an orange, almost as much calcium as whole milk (with a better rate of absorption), and contains anti-cancer and anti-viral properties with its selenium content.

Mercola.com offers a number of important articles on the health benefits of broccoli. Here are just a few:

 

Broccoli Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: One bunch (608 grams) of Broccoli

Amt. Per Serving
Calories 205
Fat 2.2 g
Sodium 201 mg
Carbohydrates 40 g
Dietary Fiber 16 g
Sugar 10 g
Protein 17 g

Studies Done on Broccoli

Eating broccoli and broccoli sprouts may enhance your body’s ability to detoxify after exposure to food- and air-borne carcinogens and oxidants, thanks to the phytochemical sulforaphane, according to a recent study.1

Broccoli is widely studied for its apparent ability to fight and even prevent many different cancers and other ills of the body. However, the bioavailability (ability to be absorbed into the system) of isothiocyanates (a phytochemical, or plant chemicals) from fresh broccoli is approximately three times greater than that of cooked broccoli.2

A study conducted on a group of 10 smokers and 10 nonsmokers ingesting broccoli indicated the importance of consuming cruciferous vegetables to protect cells against DNA damage.3

Broccoli Healthy Recipes: Broccoli Sauce

Broccoli Healthy Recipes

This can be used as a sauce, dressing, or dip.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch of fresh broccoli
  • 2 to 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. crushed coriander seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • 3 tsp. lemon or lime juice
  • 1 cup water

Procedure:

  1. Place half an inch or less of water into a large saucepan to a boil. Chop the broccoli into large chunks and place into the boiling water, stirring until each chunk is wet, until just tender and still vibrant green.
  2. Transfer broccoli to the bowl of a food processor and add remaining ingredients, processing until pureed.
  3. Return mixture into saucepan and warm over medium heat for about 3 minutes for a thick sauce that can be thinned with water if preferred. Adjust seasonings accordingly. Makes 6 servings.

Broccoli Fun Facts

In “A Treatise on Gardening by a Citizen of Virginia,” penned in 1775, John Randolph described broccoli this way: “The stems will eat like asparagus, and the heads like cauliflower.”

Summary

Broccoli doesn’t just taste good. It’s been proven over and over to contain amazing compounds that heal the body and prevent cell damage. While tests indicate that eating it raw is the way to get the most out of it nutritionally, “tender-crisp” cooking to a bright green color still has very good-for-you attributes. This may be why broccoli has been around and all over the world for the last 2,000 years.

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