The next stop on our world vegetable tour brings us to Poland to contemplate cabbage. Although more than half of the total cabbage in the world is grown in China, in Poland cabbage is a prominent player in the traditional cuisine and is also one of the main food crops.
Cabbage and Nutrition
Cabbage is a member of the Brassicaceae family – a group of standouts when it comes to nutrition – which includes kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C and folic acid. It also contains anticancer compounds called glucosinolates and sulfur-containing molecules that may enhance detoxification in the body while supporting immune and gut health. Perhaps the abundant use of cabbage in the cooking of Poland helps to keep the cancer rates lower there than in most other European countries.
How Cabbage is Used
Traditional meals in Poland use cabbage in both the main and side dishes. Most Americans have had sauerkraut, one of the most well-known preparations of cabbage. Almost all Eastern European cuisines have their own version of sauerkraut and Poland it’s known as kiszona kapusta. Sauerkraut is simply fermented cabbage. Through the process of fermentation, the shelf-life is increased and the nutritional value is enhanced because the cabbage becomes a good source of probiotics (as long as it is eaten fresh – not overly heated or canned). In Poland, sauerkraut is served as a side dish for foods like kielbasa (Polish sausage) and other meats and is also used in dishes like bigos, a hearty stew of chopped meat, sauerkraut and fresh cabbage and pierogi, dumplings filled with potatoes, sauerkraut, meat and/or cheese and sometimes other vegetables. Many other dishes incorporate cabbage including golabki, (stuffed cabbage leaves) as well as numerous salads and soups.
This Month’s Recipe
This month’s recipe is a delicious side dish that could be incorporated creatively into other dishes, much like sauerkraut is used in Poland. In the recipe for cider-braised cabbage and apples, caraway seeds, garlic and cider add layers of flavor to the mild-tasting cabbage that provides great texture and of course nutrition. Use this braised cabbage as a side dish for any meat (pork chops come to mind) or as a sauerkraut alternative with sausages. Try adding the leftovers to a spinach salad for some extra flavor and color or use it to top a homemade pizza along with some chicken sausage and your choice of vegetables and sharp cheddar cheese.
For more on cabbage (and other delicious vegetables) including recipes, factoids, and fun activities for kids, check out the Vermont Harvest of the Month website: http://www.vermontharvestofthemonth.org/
Bridget Shea, RD, is a clinical dietitian at The University of Vermont Medical Center.
Cider-Braised Cabbage & Apples
- 2lbred cabbage, cored and cut into ½ inch pieces
- 1apple, cored and cut into ½ inch pieces
- 3/4cupapple cider
- 1garlic clove, minced
- 3Tbspunsalted butter
- 1/2tspcaraway seeds
- 1 1/2Tbspapple cider vinegar
- Melt butter in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for one minute.
- Add cabbage, apple, cider, caraway seeds, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender (15-20 minutes).
- Add vinegar and cook, uncovered, for a minutes. Liquid should be evaporated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve warm.