With the exception of rotten eggs, nothing permeates the air so unfavorably as the odoriferous (literary exchange of adjective, stinkin’) vegetables in the cabbage family. As a child, I remember everyone calling into the kitchen, “Open the window”. Winters in Michigan were not blessed with Florida’s balmy breezes, so the window remained open until the discomfort from the cold over-shadowed the stench of the cooking cabbage. There’s nothing like a good shiver to make one forget lessor sensory annoyances. There is a chemical explanation for this unpleasant aroma, which doesn’t make it better, but, at least, creates an understanding. Brussels sprouts and cabbage contain the mineral, sulfur. As they cook, the sulfur is released. The longer you cook these vegetables, the more sulfur is released. So, the old adage, “Good cooking is slow cooking”, gets thrown into the sink. To reduce the smell, cook them quickly over high heat for a shorter period of time.
Our oldest winter vegetable is the cabbage. Historical evidence shows it has been in cultivation over 4,000 years. Scrolls uncovered in China in 1000 B.C. mention white cabbage as a cure for baldness in men. It’s not stated if they were rubbed into one’s scalp or eaten. It’s possible the leaves of the curly cabbage were steamed and fastened together to create man’s first toupée, but this has never been recorded.
Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, arugula, bok choy, collards, Kale, Kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes, rutabaga, tournips, tournip greens and watercress are known as “cruciferous” vegetables. They derive their name from their four-petal flowers that look like a crucifer or cross. Cabbage, in particular, is lauded as a cure for practically every intestinal ailment. It is said that fresh cabbage juice coupled with sugar or honey is a good expectorant for bronchitis and also has antiseptic property. Cabbage leaves are even used as compresses for first degree burns, inflammatory diseases and angina attacks. The ADA (American Dietetics Association) says it might prove to be a deterrent to cancer of the colon. These claims have not been been proven, but we do know that cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C, with one wedge providing eighty-two percent of the recommended daily allowance. It is also called the ideal roughage, and, in most cases, improves digestion. Its juice has been credited with raising the appetite, improving the work of the intestine, and as an agent for treatment of peptic ulcers. All vegetables in the cabbage family should be cooked within a day or two of purchase and discarded rather than stored in the refrigerator after cooking for optimum vitamin benefits.