Cabbage just in time for St. Patrick’s Day

“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.”

This stanza comes from the poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” by renowned Victorian author Lewis Carroll. While in Mrs. Vonderheide’s seventh-grade class, we had to memorize this fun and interesting poem. My college roommate, Jerry Boatz, and I often recited this poem and later realized what wisdom she had in making us memorize poetry.

Today I think not only of Mrs. Vonderheide – but cabbage! What do you love about cabbage? It is a favorite in our home, and we serve it often in various ways. Its color, texture and crunchiness when eaten raw, as in my favorite oil coleslaw or cooked lightly and creamed with a touch of nutmeg, rank high on our list. We also rest cabbage of top of a solid piece of ham and simply steam it without a load of calories. The person who treated cabbage most intricately was my Grandma Repnow – an immigrant from Germany who made sauerkraut with kisses of apple sweetness.

As you can see, cabbage has versatility and that often it can be a cook’s best friend. Cabbage is also very high in vitamin C, it is low in fat and high in fiber, plus it is available in that lovely fashion color of violet red to deep purple. Bok choy is one of the most nutritious members of the cabbage family and so readily available.

While at Minot State University, the late Floyd Fairweather informed our class that this vegetable – that all the dear Germans hold so close – had connection to a Greek myth. The first cabbage sprang from the tears of a prince whom the wine god Dionysus punished for trampling his grapes! (See why it is important to pay attention during humanities class?!) The last questions in our house have come from Lydia. She is wondering about babies from cabbage patches! Bless those creative souls who thought of Cabbage Patch Dolls!

Cabbage does have a large extended family belonging to the cruciferous vegetables, which include kale, broccoli, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kohlrabi. This past weekend I made oil coleslaw combining green and red cabbage for a very artistic look – completed with a bouquet of mini tomato roses. Red cabbage is the acknowledged favorite for serving pickled or cooked with apples. Its inviting and decorative qualities can be most impressive. Often on the current cooking channel we see creative cooks taking advantage of the marbleized red and white as liners to salads and even

creating purple flowers!

Here are a few cabbage hints:

Cabbage keeps well refrigerated in a paper or plastic bag in which holes have been punched.

The top half of the cabbage is considered more tender and easier to shred. It is practical to cut the head in half horizontally, using tops for salads, bottoms in cooked recipes.

To retain cabbage nutrients, cook as quickly as possible, adding a minimum of cooking liquid and salt.

Cabbage flavor is especially compatible with anise, basil, caraway, celery seed, dill, mustard, fennel, nutmeg, oregano, savory and tarragon.

A whole unshelled walnut dropped into the cabbage pot cuts down on cooking odors.

Choose well-trimmed, reasonably solid heads, heavy for their size. Leaves should be firmly attached at the stem.

Cabbage can be your best kitchen friend who is waiting to be simply or creativity prepared.