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Lowly cabbage deserves recognition

Fresh or fermented — it’s packed with nutrition

Cabbage may still be regarded as a vegetable of the poor by some, but it’s high time it receives equal respect and recognition with its cruciferous cousins. This humble vegetable is chock full of nutritional benefits. Part of the brassica family, cabbage is a cool-weather crop widely grown around the world.

Studies at the Oregon State University indicate that cruciferous vegetables, particularly cabbage, contain protective phytochemicals called glucosinolates that are powerful weapons in the fight against cancer. Sulforphane, for example, will stimulate enzymes to remove carcinogens before they can get a foothold.

Red cabbage also contains anthocyanin polyphenols, naturally occurring pigments that give the red, blue and purple fruit their colouring. Anthocyanin contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.

The high vitamin C content and the presence of sulforphane help the body produce detoxification enzymes, as well as remove free radicals and uric acid which are associated with rheumatism, gout, arthritis and skin conditions such as eczema.

As a low-calorie, nutrient-dense food, cabbage is low in carbs, and an excellent source of dietary fibre, which helps to slow digestion and thus control hunger. Fibre is also good for preventing constipation, colon cancer, hemorrhoids and obesity, and helps to lower blood cholesterol and stabilizes blood sugar levels.

Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamins C and K. Both are essential in strengthening the immune system, fighting illness, healing wounds and proper functioning of the nervous system. Vitamin K is also necessary for blood clotting and bone formation and repair.

The B vitamins in cabbage are important for the health of nerves, skin, eyes, hair, liver and proper brain function.

Cabbage also contains: manganese (needed for protein and fat metabolism, the maintenance of healthy nerves, blood sugar regulation and energy production), potassium (important for a healthy nervous system and regular heart rhythm), and iodine (essential in thyroid health).

Weigh the plate down to make sure the vegetables stay covered in juices.

Weigh the plate down to make sure the vegetables stay covered in juices.
photo: Edna Manning

Unpasteurized fermented cabbage has additional health advantages derived from the fermentation process. These probiotic benefits include strengthening of the body’s immune system and regulating intestinal functions. In order to gain the most from its beneficial bacterial organisms, use fresh vegetables and natural sea salt.

Making fermented cabbage is a simple process. Here’s how:

  1. Grate cabbage and beets into a clean stainless steel or glass bowl.
  2. Mix five pounds of these vegetables with three tablespoons of sea salt. For different flavours add caraway seed, ginger or cardamon for example.
  3. Press mixture into a stone crock or glass jar until juices come to the surface and cover with a plate.
  4. Place a jar of water on the plate to weigh it down and keep the vegetables covered with juices.
  5. Cover with a clean tea towel and place in a cool location (70 F or lower) to begin fermenting process. Check daily and remove any discoloured vegetables from around the edges. Bubbles will form as fermenting begins.
  6. After a week the fermented vegetables should have a mild, tangy taste. Longer fermentation will produce more tang. Pack into jars and store in refrigerator for up to three months. Can also be frozen — vegetables will retain crispness. If you do freeze, make sure to leave plenty of headspace for expansion. Enjoy!

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