Of Cabbages and Kings
May 18th, 2011 | By Jerry Greenfield | Category: Top Headline | Print This Article
“‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
‘to talk of many things:
Of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax –
Of cabbages – and kings –
And why the sea is boiling hot –
And whether pigs have wings.’”
“Through the Looking Glass”
Well, pigs will probably be seen riding the thermals above my garden before I get around to writing much about ships or sealing wax in a column dedicated to survival gardening. As for shoes, I recommend comfy ones that you don’t mind getting dirty or scuffed when you’re working in your garden.
If we are talking about the sea, I know the what to the why. Thinking that our seas were infinite, we pumped so much garbage into them that we’ve clogged the whole system. There are now massive floating islands of disposable diapers, plastic bottles, fast food containers, and other trash in several places in our oceans. Trust me; we’re all going to pay for this short-sighted mistake. I might write more about this later; right now, though, I want to focus on families.
Cabbages and kings both have families.
Historically, many kings have had uncertain relationships with their families. Wives, siblings, children, uncles, and cousins have all been known to seek an upgrade in their fortunes by bumping off the fellow who wears the big crown. While royal families tend to breed tensions, the cabbage family prospers with numerous nutritional benefits for all.
Cabbages are proud members of the brassica family. The brassicas include some of the healthiest vegetables you can grow in your survival garden. Family members include the following tasty treats:
- Asian mustard
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Chinese cabbage
- Mizuna greens
- Sprouting broccoli
- Upland cress
- And, of course, our humble, but nutritionally rich friend, cabbage
A single cup of chopped raw cabbage only packs about 22 calories but is a good source of thiamin, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. In addition to these vital minerals, your cup of uncooked cabbage provides about 10% your required intake of folate, 54% of your vitamin C, and a whopping 85% of your vitamin K.
Cabbage is also rich in several cancer-fighting substances.
The first one I’d like to mention goes by the rather intimidating name of indole-3-carbinol. If you’d like, we’ll just refer to it by its friendlier nickname, I3C. Promising research has shown that I3C may be effective in preventing or even treating breast cancer. Scientists tell us that the compound seems to sweep up harmful estrogens which have been linked to cancer of the breast. Some folks have been so excited about this research that they’ve gone out and spent big bucks on I3C supplements. From my way of thinking, that’s a foolish waste of money. Why take a risk on expensive, untested and possibly unsafe supplements when you can get a healthy dose of I3C by using the cabbage you grow in your own garden? You know where it has been and, if you’re using a high-quality organic fertilizer like Protogrow, you know that it is good for you.
Another promising compound in cabbage, sulforaphane, has shown positive anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties in several research studies.
A low calorie treat packed with nutrients and compounds that might help you resist cancer and diabetes, what’s not to like? Oh yeah, the stink.
Some people avoid this healthy vegetable because they are put off by the heavy odor that permeates the air when cabbage is cooked. If your kitchen is assaulted by an overpowering cabbagy smell every time you prepare cabbage, odds are good that you’re overcooking it. Long cooking releases a larger quantity of the sulfur compounds that create that odor.
According to Allan Maganizer, DO, director of the Maganizer Center for Wellness in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, cabbage should be cooked no longer than five minutes. In most situations, I’d suggest a bit less. I prefer a quick stir fry over a long boil for this veggie. The longer you cook your cabbage, the more of those vital nutrients are going to be destroyed.
If you insist on boiling your cabbage longer than a few minutes, adding a stalk of celery to the cooking water will help neutralize the odor a bit. Just keep in mind that about 90% of the cancer fighting sulforaphane is going to end up in the cooking water when you prepare cabbage by boiling. Think soup.
We’ll be adding a few more nutrition powerhouses to the pot next month when we cover a few more members of the brassica family.
Before closing, I just want to take a moment to give you a few gardening tips about this important family of vegetables.
Brassicas favor firm, moisture retentive soil. If you experience a dry spell, you want to water them on a regular basis. When you rotate your crops, brassicas do particularly well in the space you used to grow peas or beans.
Mix compost into your soil and fertilize with a good organic fertilizer on a regular basis for best results. With a succession of sowings, you can keep healthy food on your table most of the year when you grow brassicas. Look for more info on this royal family of vegetables in my next column. Until then, please accept my best wishes for sunny days and gentle evening rains as we move through a productive month of May in the garden.
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