*Written by Heather Malone*
“Mommy, where does cabbage come from?”
Humans have been enjoying cabbage since before 1,000 years BCE. Hailing from Europe, cabbage has long been revered as a reliable source of nutrition. Being resistant to frost and even a light freeze it provided farmers with a hearty crop that could be grown during parts of the year when many other crops could not. It seems nearly every major culture had their own special way of preparing cabbage. Stewed, boiled, steamed, raw, sautéed, grilled or fermented, cabbage is a versatile and delicious way to enjoy the many benefits of the cruciferous veggie family.
Cabbage for life!
Cabbage is an excellent source of Vitamin C, Potassium, B6 and Folate. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. Potassium is vital for the health of muscle tissue, including the heart. It also plays an important role in kidney and nerve function. B6 is essential for many metabolic processes. What about Folate? Oh, no big deal, it’s only used in little things like cell division and DNA synthesis. When you add to this all-star lineup many of its beneficial phytonutrients it begins to paint a compelling picture of cabbage as a true powerhouse of nutrition. Phytonutrients don’t have a ‘set daily intake’ amount assigned by the USDA because they aren’t considered essential to the human body in the way that vitamins or minerals are. However, they do some amazing things like reduce inflammation, boost your immune system and help prevent certain diseases. And since cabbage is relatively affordable, it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to get quality nutrition. I don’t know about you, but I’d like some cabbage now please!
Cabbage from Farm to Table
Hopefully now you’re convinced of all amazing health benefits of cabbage and you’re ready to eat one for tonight’s dinner. Great! Now what? The bulk of cabbage in the U.S. is grown in New York, Georgia and Florida, which is a very long trek to get to my table in Golden, CO. By sourcing your cabbage locally from GoFarm, you’re reducing your food’s carbon footprint and ensuring that you get the freshest and most delicious cabbage with the maximum nutritional benefit.
Here’s what to look for when you’re picking out your cabbage:
Look for a head of cabbage that is tightly held together (there shouldn’t be many scraggly leaves hanging off the sides). It should appear vibrant, crisp and fresh. Now pick it up. How does it feel? It should feel quite heavy, and firm. A few holes in the outer leaves are normal but should be minimal.
Now that you’ve selected a perfect head of cabbage, how will you store it?
You could store it in your crisper for as long as a couple of weeks but for maximum benefit use it in the first few days.
Ready to Eat?
When you’re ready to eat your cabbage peel off the outer leaves and wash well. Now he rest is up to you. If you’re going to enjoy it raw (my personal favorite), cut out the core of the cabbage and finely shred the leaves for use in a nice slaw or in salad. If you’re going to cook it, it’s best to leave the core intact as this helps to hold the leaves together during cooking. Only cook between 5 and 10 minutes until it starts to get tender but doesn’t go completely soft. This will ensure you get the most nutritional benefit from your cabbage. Steaming is one of the best ways to cook cabbage for nutrient preservation. You could also try cutting into thick “steaks”, brushing it with a little olive oil and seasoning and grilling it. One of my go-to recipes for cabbage is a super easy recipe that turns raw cabbage into taco shells. I’ve included the recipe below for your enjoyment.
Taco Tuesday with a Twist
Okay I know this doesn’t look like kid food but if you can convince the little ones in your life to try it I promise they are going to love it. Mine did! Plus, it’s easy enough to make for a busy weeknight but fancy enough to serve guests on the weekend.
1lb ground protein of choice, I prefer Boca Crumbles
1 can of beans, I prefer pinto beans but really most beans would work just fine
1 cups fresh corn off the cob (you can sub frozen if you don’t have fresh)
1 cup Salsa of choice
1 cup cheese sauce of choice, a nice flavorful queso works best
1 cup finely shredded cabbage
½ can chopped olives
1 large tomato, diced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro + a few sprigs to garnish
A generous handful of chopped pickled banana peppers
1 lime, sliced into wedges
½ medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic minced
Cumin to taste (I used ½ Tbsp)
12 of the smaller, inner cabbage leaves with a nice bowl shape if making bowls, the larger outer leaves can be used if you prefer it wrap style.
1) In a large non-stick skillet brown the ground protein over medium high heat with the cumin, garlic and onion.
2) If you want to make things really easy on yourself try chopping the cabbage, olives, tomato, peppers and cilantro in a food processor. Once you are finished browning the protein add the remaining ingredients (except for garnish) and reduce heat to medium low. 3) Squeeze in the juice of 4 lime wedges, retain the rest for garnish.
4) Simmer 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until the flavor develops to your liking (frequent tasting is encouraged).
5) Spoon the mixture into your cabbage bowls or wraps according to your preference. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro, an olive, a lime wedge or a ring of banana pepper and serve.
The nice thing about this recipe is you can pretty much modify it as needed and it will still be delicious. Not into dairy? Me either! Try using nutritional yeast or a flavorful vegan cheese sauce. Forgot the cilantro and lime? It’s okay, make it anyway. It’ll still taste good. Play with your food, or at least my recipe :)