December 1, 2014
Savoy cabbage has a dark green, nearly round head with deeply wrinkled leaves. Fittingly it is often called ‘curly cabbage’. The leave color ranges from a dark, deep green of the outer leaves to a softer green, almost yellow when you reach the center of the cabbage. Many consider it the best eating cabbage. I has a delicate texture and the flavor is superior to smooth leaved cabbage.
The cabbage is named after the region where it’s believed to have originated – Savoy [straddles the Alpine regions of Italy and France]. The word ‘cabbage’ itself derives from the French word ‘caboche’ – meaning ‘head’.
Cabbage in general has been around for more than 4,000 years [domesticated for over 2,500 years]. Around 600 B.C. the Celts brought the vegetable from Asia. Since it grows well in cool climates, yields large harvests and stores well during winter – it got quite popular in Europe. Only in 1536 a French navigator introduced cabbage to America.
By the way – largest cabbage ever recored [1865, England] weighed 56 kg!!
Savoy cabbages are available year-round in most markets but are a typical cool-season crop. Peak season runs from November through April [in the Northern Hemisphere]. Unfortunately it is not easily shipped and will not be as often available as other cabbages. In regions where it’s neither too hot nor too cold apparently it’s not that hard to grow yourself. The crop only takes three months to grow. Once mature it will keep for quite some time in the garden.
SHOPPING + STORAGE
Savoy cabbage leaves are not as tightly furled as most cabbages – but still try to get a head that is compact [not fluffy]. It should be large – heavy for its size – with crisp, green leaves showing no evidence of damage or insect nibbles. Fresh cabbage will have a generous amount of wrapper [outer] leaves. Farmers will sometimes pull off the wilted outer leaves as the cabbage ages – check the bottom to see if the leaves start to separate from the stem – an indication of age.
Store the whole cabbage head – wrapped in a plastic bag – in the refrigerator for up to a week [2 if fresh from the garden]. If you already used part of it – keep the outer most leaves to wrap the cabbage with [will keep the inner leaves moist].
Chopped cabbage will rapidly lose its freshness – plan to use it within a few days. Store in a plastic bag [in the fridge] drizzled with water. The older the cabbage gets – the stronger the flavor and odor. Keep away from other foods.
You may freeze cabbage for up to a year. To do so – cut cabbage into coarse shreds – blanch for 2 minutes in boiling water – drain – chill – pack into airtight containers – freeze. Once frozen cabbage will only really work well in cooked applications.
Savoy cabbage is more tender than other cabbages and therefore requires less cooking time. Generally cabbage can be steamed, baked, braised, sauteed or stuffed – as well as eaten raw. Especially if you want to stuff cabbage leaves, savoy cabbage is a great choice – the leaves are pliable and stand up good to longer cooking times.
To rid cabbage of insects and dirt – soak for 15 minutes in salt [or vinegar] water – then rinse thoroughly in cold water. For the mildest flavor and tenderness – cut out and discard the fibrous thick ribs from the outer leaves [they taste bitter].
To remain its sweetness cook cabbage until just tender-crisp. If cooked too long the leaves will lose texture and flavor.
Savoy cabbage has a flavor affinity for garlic, olive oil, polenta, red wine, apples, horseradish and white beans. Complimentary herbs and spices include celery sees, mustard seeds, nutmeg, tarragon, garlic, caraway seeds, dill weed, black pepper and thyme. Good companion vegetables are potatoes, leek, sweet onions and carrots. It pairs beautifully with corned beef, bacon and sausage.
Tip – Cabbage leaves are quite strong and make great containers to serve cold dips and spreads.
Greeks and Romans placed great importance on the healing powers of cabbage – thinking it could cure just about any illness. Emperor Claudius even called upon his Senate to vote on whether any dish could surpass corned beef and cabbage [the senate voted a resounding ‘nay’]. Egyptian pharaohs would eat large quantities of cabbage before a night of drink – thinking it would allow them to drink more alcohol without getting a hangover [even today cabbage is considered a good hangover remedy].
As inexpensive as cabbage is, it’s rich in protective vitamins, with very little calories. The outer leaves are a good source of vitamin E and C as well as sulphur. It it hailed as a cancer inhibitor, stimulates the immune system, kills harmful bacteria, soothes ulcers and improves circulation.
Some people do tend to suffer digestive distress [due to gas from cabbage] – try blanching the leaves for 5 minutes and changing the water before cooking further.
Cabbage can interfere with the uptake of iodine – check with your physician if you have a goiter conditions. [the consumption of cabbage may aggravate a pre-existing thyroid condition – but it is generally not the initial factor of such a condition]
Nutritional value per 100g [% of Daily Value]
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