Green cabbage is in your CSA box this week and it feels like we’re welcoming back an old friend who’s been away for a few seasons. This heady brassica is just in time for our St. Patricks Day meals of cabbage, ham/bacon (Irish) or corned beef (American) and potatoes. Did you know that beef was not readily available in Ireland and that’s why the traditional Irish meal centered around ham or bacon. When the Irish came to America it was quite the opposite, beef was more plentiful and corned beef was inexpensive so this became the meal of choice for generations of Irish Americans.
The flavor of green cabbage is grassy, sweet and cruciferous, with a pungent smell, a trademark characteristic of cabbage. When I think of cabbage, I think of slaw. Sweet slaw with citrus, apples, beets, carrots and honey ginger dressing, or a savory slaw with kale, cauliflower, green onions, bok choy, and a creamy garlic dressing. Slaw is also an essential part of the SoCal fish taco. Whether you highlight the raw crunchiness or cook it so it becomes soft and sweet the flavors you add will give it a different character. Green cabbage can be wilted, braised, roasted, fried, dehydrated, grilled, juiced and used as a wrap. If you are a cabbage neophyte, check out our recipe archive for both raw and cooked versions.
Green cabbage is a cold weather cole crop and it keeps well, so it has been a common winter vegetable for hundreds of years. All cole crops are natural varieties of the species Brassica oleracea. They include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, collards, and kohlrabi. Each cabbage plant, which measures about two feet around, produces one head of cabbage. In the field, as the plant unfurls its leaves and develops the tight cabbage head in the middle, it looks like a large, beautiful, green rose. Warm weather, the bane of the brassica family, will encourage the plant to bolt (flower) and it will shoot the flower stem straight up out of the cracked cabbage head.
The hard-heading cabbages were developed in the cooler parts of Europe by peoples largely Celtic, Nordic, or of mixed blood and culture involving Celtic or Nordic peoples. Wild cabbage was brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by groups of Celtic wanderers. Although the evidence points to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor as the place of origin, the Celts of central and western Europe played a direct role in the distribution and popularization of cabbage as a food plant. Fermented sauerkraut is said to have originated in China and to have been brought to Europe by Marco Polo. There is a French idiom that a parent might use as a term of endearment for a child, ‘mon petite chou’ which literally translates to ‘my little cabbage’. And, one more, there is a French fairytale that tells us little boys are born in a cabbage, and little girls in a rose.
Recipe for Week of Mar. 6 – 12
Fish Tacos with Quick Cabbage Slaw
The textural contrast between lightly crispy fish, supple corn tortillas, crunchy slaw and soft avocado is a big part of this simple recipe’s success. The fish for these tacos is simple to prepare, any flaky white fish will work. It’s dredged in flour and pan-fried for a few minutes on the stovetop. If you’ve never made fish tacos at home because you thought they’d be messy or complicated wait no longer and try this easy recipe.