When I see a cabbage, I am reminded of my grandmother shredding cabbage and giving me the core.No one else was offered this special treat except me! Since I was the only child in our family until my cousins were born, I was rather spoiled. I would always get the best of every food and some were only for me, like the cabbage core. I remember how much I enjoyed its sweet taste and the sound of the crisp bite, similar to a sweet radish. It was like a special gift!
Cabbage or Brassica oleracea is a biennial leafy green from the Brassicaceae family (also called Cruciferae), same as cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts. They are also called Cruciferous vegetables after their flowers' form resemblance to a crucifix or cross. Cabbage is originally from Europe and it is grown as an annual vegetable for its densely-leaved heads. The leaves are thick, alternating, cupping inward, forming the cabbage head. It is a great source of beta-carotene, vitamin C and fiber. According to ancient Greeks and Romans, cabbage has healing properties, including relief from gout, headaches, and even symptoms of poisonous mushrooms indigestion. I remember my Grandma covering her feet with cabbage leaves when they were swollen and she said it worked
Cabbage can be found in different varieties and colors, mostly green and red. Some species aren't tasty and sweet, especially some we can find now on our market, coming from other countries. The varieties grown in our country are Brasica oleracea var capitata (white cabbage) and Brasica oleracea rubra (red cabbage). Red cabbage is tastier than the white one, has eight times more vitamin C and thanks to the anthocyanins, it may even prevent or slow down the degeneration of the cells in Alzheimer's patients according to some studies.
In Romania cabbage is a beloved vegetable and has many culinary uses. We eat it raw as a coleslaw, with vinegar, salt and vegetable oil, but also pickled, as sauerkraut. Our winters are long and cold, so we need to can every vegetable we can to get for the vitamins. It is an old tradition, but people are still following it, although nowadays we can find sauerkraut or raw cabbage at the store all winter long. Every Romanian family has a barrel for making sauerkraut for the winter. The most loved meal made with sauerkraut is stuffed cabbage rolls with pork - our traditional Christmas meal. There is no Romanian home without the cabbage rolls on Christmas day! The only "bad" thing when making sauerkraut is that the core needs to be removed, so the salty water can get inside each cabbage head.
I grew cabbage from seeds last summer in my garden and had the joy of having lots of seedlings. I had to thin them and made several patches. It was a nice experience, especially to have a good cabbage crop for pickling. All went into the barrel, even the smaller ones, and made the best sauerkraut I've ever had.
I grew up with these traditions and enjoyed eating many cabbage dishes. Shredded cabbage has always been very common in our home, especially starting in summer, when the first cabbages appear at the market. Until other vegetables are available for a salad, coleslaw is served every day on our lunch table. As a child, everytime I saw my mom or grandma slicing cabbage, I knew I would have the core as a treat. It wasn't like a candy or a cake, but it was good! I always loved watching my grandma as she cut the cabbage in half, then sliced it quickly with a sharp knife, around the core, until all that remained was the small pyramid-shaped core. That was the moment I had been waiting for all along. With the small white core in my hand I felt like I was getting a prize for being a good girl! I never knew why the core had to be peeled until later, when I sliced my first cabbage. Only then I realized that around the cabbage core is a hard, woody cover which isn't so good for eating because it's too fibrous. So that's why I had to wait until my grandma cut out the core! Now I don't need to slice the cabbage with a knife anymore because I have a food processor which slices cabbage and all other vegetables. I only need to cut big chunks of cabbage, around the core, and the food processor makes the rest. My grandma would have loved it!
Some may tell you that the cabbage core is too fibrous to eat, but don't listen to them, until you try it for yourself. Besides being so sweet and crisp, the cabbage core has special vitamins, like cabagin, the vitamin U (from ulcer) which is supposed to cure ulcers, and also vitamin C. Vitamin U was discovered by Cheney, an American scientist. I was amazed to find out that the vitamin U in the cabbage was first obtained and stabilized in 2002 by a a few Romanian scientists in Timisoara. They managed to make a pill which can heal an ulcer, but unfortunately it doesn't reduce the pain.
After so many years, I'm still anxious to get to the core when slicing a cabbage head, only it isn't for me anymore. My two children shared the cabbage core when they were kids and now that my grandson has grown, he is the spoiled one and he can eat every cabbage core. Tradition goes on !