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Related subjects: Plants

Background Information

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Cabbage, cultivar unknown
Species Brassica oleracea
Cultivar group Capitata Group
Origin Mediterranean, 1st century
Cultivar group members Many; see text.
Cabbage, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 103 kJ (25 kcal)
Carbohydrates 5.8 g
- Sugars 3.2 g
- Dietary fibre 2.5 g
Fat 0.1 g
Protein 1.28 g
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.061 mg (5%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.040 mg (3%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 0.234 mg (2%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.212 mg (4%)
Vitamin B6 0.124 mg (10%)
Folate (vit. B9) 53 μg (13%)
Vitamin C 36.6 mg (44%)
Calcium 40 mg (4%)
Iron 0.47 mg (4%)
Magnesium 12 mg (3%)
Phosphorus 26 mg (4%)
Potassium 170 mg (4%)
Zinc 0.18 mg (2%)
Percentages are relative to
US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

The cabbage ( Brassica oleracea Capitata Group) is a plant of the Family Brassicaceae (or Cruciferae). It is a herbaceous, biennial, and dicotyledonous flowering plant with leaves forming a characteristic compact cluster. Cabbages grown late in autumn and in the beginning of winter are called coleworts.

The cabbage is derived from a leafy wild mustard plant, native to the Mediterranean region. It was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans; Cato the Elder praised this vegetable for its medicinal properties, declaring that "it is first of all the vegetables".. The English name derives from the Normanno- Picard caboche ("head"). Cabbage was developed by ongoing artificial selection for suppression of the internode length. The dense core of the cabbage is called the babchka. It is related to the turnip.


The only part of the plant that is normally eaten is the leafy head; more precisely, the spherical cluster of immature leaves, excluding the partially unfolded outer leaves. The so-called 'cabbage head' is widely consumed raw, cooked, or preserved in a great variety of dishes. Cabbage is a leaf vegetable.


Raw cabbage is usually sliced into thin strips or shredded for use in salads, such as coleslaw. It can also replace iceberg lettuce in sandwiches. Cabbage is an excellent source of Vitamin C.


Cabbage is often added to soups or stews. Cabbage soup is popular in central Europe and eastern Europe, and cabbage is an ingredient in some kinds of borscht. Cabbage is also used in many popular dishes in India. Boiling tenderizes the leaves and releases sugars, which leads to the characteristic "cabbage" aroma. Boiled cabbage has become stigmatized in North America because of its strong cooking odour and the belief that it causes flatulence. Boiled cabbage as an accompaniment to meats and other dishes can be an opportune source of vitamins and dietary fibre. Stuffed cabbage is an East European delicacy. The leaves are softened by parboiling or placing the whole head of cabbage in the freezer, and then filled with chopped meat and/or rice.

Fermented and preserved

Cabbage is the basis for the German sauerkraut and Korean kimchi. To pickle cabbage it is placed in a jar, covered with water and salt, and left in a warm place for several days to ferment. Sauerkraut was historically prepared at home in large batches, as a way of storing food for the winter. Cabbage can also be pickled in vinegar with various spices, alone or in combination with other vegetables. Korean baechu kimchi is usually sliced thicker than its European counterpart, and the addition of onions, chilies, minced garlic and gingers is common.

Medicinal properties

In European folk medicine, cabbage leaves are used to treat acute inflammation. A paste of raw cabbage may be placed in a cabbage leaf and wrapped around the affected area to reduce discomfort. Some claim it is effective in relieving painfully engorged breasts in breastfeeding women.

Cabbage contains significant amounts glutamine, an amino acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

It is a source of indol-3-carbinol, or I3C, a compound used as an adjuvent therapy for recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, a disease of the head and neck caused by human papillomavirus (usually types 6 and 11) that causes growths in the airway that can lead to death.


There are many varieties of cabbage based on shape and time of maturity. Traditional varieties include "Late Flat Dutch", "Early Jersey Wakefield" (a conical variety), "Danish Ballhead" (late, round -headed). Savoy Cabbage has a round head with crinkled leaves. Red cabbage is a small, round headed type with dark red leaves. Krautman is the most common variety for commercial production of sauerkrauts.


Cabbage garden in Shanghai, China.

Broadly speaking, cabbage varieties come in two groups, early and late. The early varieties mature in about 45 days. They produce small heads which do not keep well and are intended for consumption while fresh. The late cabbage matures in about 87 days, and produces a larger head.

Cabbage can be started indoors or sowed directly. Like all brassicae, cabbage is a cool season crop, so early and late plantings do better than those maturing in the heat of the summer.

Control of insect pests is important, particularly in commercial production where appearance is a driver of success. The pesticides sevin and malathion are both listed for use on cabbage. The caterpillars of some butterflies in the family Pieridae (the "whites") feed on brassicas and can be serious pests; see also List of Lepidoptera that feed on Brassica.

Cabbages keep well and were thus a common winter vegetable before refrigeration and long-distance shipping of produce.

Cabbage output in 2005

Related Brassica oleracea varieties

Besides cabbage proper, the species Brassica oleracea has many distinctive cultivars, which are commonly known by other names: broccoli (Italica Group), cauliflower (Botrytis Group), kale, collard greens, and spring greens (Acephala Group), kohlrabi (Gongylodes Group), brussels sprouts (Gemmifera Group), Chinese kale or Chinese broccoli (Alboglabra Group), broccolini (Italica × Alboglabra Group), and broccoflower (Italica × Botrytis Group).

Linguistic associations

During World War II, "kraut" (cabbage) was a racial slur for Germans. In Hebrew, the term "rosh kruv" (cabbage head) implies stupidity.

For other associations, see

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