Cabbage is a garden plant believed to have been brought from Asia Minor to Europe around 600 B.C. The ability of cabbage to withstand cold climates favored the spread of its cultivation across northern Europe, and it came to be held in high esteem in Germany, Poland and Russia in particular. Cabbage has long been valued for its many medicinal properties; the Greeks and the Romans considered it a veritable panacea.
Cabbage belongs to a large family that includes kale, broccoli, collards, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, sea kale and kohlrabi. It consists of superposed layers of thick leaves that may or may not form a head, that may be smooth or curled, and that vary in color from green to white or red.
They are roughly 400 varieties of cabbage. The different types include inflorescent cabbage (broccoli, cauliflower), stem cabbage (kohlrabi, kale, collards, Chinese cabbage), and smooth-leaf and curled-leaf cabbage (green and red cabbage).
The origin of this garden plant is not known. Although it is related to the wild variety of cabbage, which was used for thousands of years, it would appear that the Brussels sprout as we know it today was developed only a few centuries ago in Northern Europe, close to Brussels, the city after which it is named. Unlike the other members of the cabbage family, Brussels sprouts are generally eaten cooked. They are often served as a vegetable side dish, on their own or with butter, lemon juice or a béchamel sauce.
Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C and folic acid, and a good source of potassium. Cabbage is said to have cancer-inhibiting properties. Its juice is held to be effective in the treatment of stomach ulcers and in fact helps to heal gastro-intestinal wounds. In phytotherapy, cabbage is used to treat over 100 illnesses.