Horticulture and Soil Science Wiki
800px-Cabbage and cross section on white.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom Plantae
Subkingdom Tracheobionta
Superdivision Spermatophyta
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida
Subclass Dilleniidae
Order Capparales
Family Brassicaceae
Genus Brassica L.
Species Brassica oleracea L.
Binomial nomenclature

Cabbage is a popular cultivar of the species Brassica oleracea (Capitata Group) of the family Brassicaceae (or Cruciferae) and is a leafy green vegetable. It is a herbaceous, biennial, dicotyledonous flowering plant distinguished by a short stem upon which is crowded a mass of leaves, usually green but in some varieties red or purplish, which while immature form a characteristic compact, globular cluster (cabbagehead).

The plant is also called head cabbage or heading cabbage, and in Scotland a bowkail, from its rounded shape. The Scots call its stalk a castock, and the British occasionally call its head a loaf.

Cabbage leaves often have a delicate, powdery, waxy coating called bloom. The occasionally sharp or bitter taste of cabbage is due to glucosinolate(s).



Cabbage farmer in Gardena, California, 1951

The cultivated cabbage is derived from a leafy plant called the wild mustard plant, native to the Mediterranean region, where it is common along the seacoast. Also called sea cabbage and wild cabbage, it was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans; Cato the Elder praised this vegetable for its medicinal properties, declaring that "It is the cabbage that surpasses all other vegetables." Cabbage was developed by ongoing selective breeding for suppression of the internode length. The English name derives from the Normanno-Picard language caboche (head), perhaps from boche (swelling, bump). Or perhaps from the Latin for "head": Capus; in standard modern Italian: Capo. There is an Italian dialect word for head: Capoccia.


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. Cabbage is used in a variety of dishes for its naturally spicy flavor. The so-called "cabbage head" is widely consumed raw, cooked, or preserved in a great variety of dishes. It is the principal ingredient in coleslaw and sauerkraut.


File:Stuffed Cabbage Golomki.jpg

Stuffed cabbage rolls, known in Polish as golabki

Cabbage is often added to soups or stews. Cabbage soup is popular in Central and Eastern Europe, and cabbage is an ingredient in some kinds of borscht. Garbure (from Provençal garburo) is a thick soup of cabbage or other vegetables with bacon. Cabbage may be an ingredient in kugel, a baked pudding served as a side dish or dessert. 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 because of its strong cooking odor and the fact that it causes flatulence. Moreover, boiling reduces the cabbage's anticancer properties. It is often prepared and served with boiled meat and other vegetables as part of a boiled dinner. Harold McGee has studied the development of unpleasant smells when cooking brassicas and reports that they develop with prolonged cooking. According to Corriher's Compendium, smell doubles when prolonging cooking from five to seven minutes; for best results cabbage should be sliced thinly and cooked for four minutes.

Cabbage rolls, a type of dolma, are an East European and Middle Eastern delicacy. The leaves are softened by parboiling or by placing the whole head of cabbage in the freezer, and then the leaves are stuffed with a mixture of chopped meat and/or rice. Stuffed cabbage is called holishkes in Yiddish, holubky (Slovak and Czech), holubtsi (Ukrainian), gołąbki [ɡɔˈwɔmpki] (Polish), golubtsy (Russian), balandėliai (Lithuanian), tīteņi (Latvian), kohlrouladen (German) or töltött káposzta (Hungarian). It literally translates as "little pigeons" in Polish, Slovak and Lithuanian.

A vegetable stuffed with shredded cabbage and then pickled is called mango.

The largest cabbage dish ever made was on 19 December 2008 in the Macedonian city of Prilep, with 80,191 sarmas (cabbage rolls) weighing 544 kg (1,221 lbs). Bubble and squeak consists of potatoes and cabbage or, especially formerly, potatoes, cabbage and meat fried together. Potatoes and cabbage or other greens boiled and mashed together make up a dish called colcannon, an Irish Gaelic word meaning white-headed cabbage, grounded in Old Irish terms for cabbage or kale (cāl), head (cend or cenn) and white (find). In the American South and Midland, "corn dodgers" were boiled as dumplings with cabbage and ham.


In the Transylvania Region Cabbage is the basis for a multitude of dishes pickled or fresh. Sarmale is the most popular dish consumed typically at Christmas and New Years Eve table, but it can be coked throughout the year pickled sauerkraut or in Romanian Varza Murata.

Sarmale is a popular dish, made of cabbage rolls of cabbage leaf stuffed with meat and rice, layered also with smoked meat or sausage for flavor and served with heavy cream (smintina).

Varza A La Cluj is a dish where layers of shredded cabbage or sauerkraut or mixed, combined with layers of pork meat, rice and dill. Also served with heavy cream (smintina)

Salata de Varza Murata: fined shredded sauerkraut, squeezed out the juice and mixed with pumpkin seed oil. Best served with goulash, Fasole Batuta (mashed navy beans with garlic, kind of look like re-fried beans but they are actually a form of hummus recipe with navy beans).

Zama de Moare (sauerkraut juice): Best served with baked potato, a potato bite rinsed down with a sip of juice. Cirnat fiert in zama de moare (regional paprika and garlic sausage boiled in sauerkraut juice. Served with either pickles or mustard.

Fermented and preserved[]

Cabbage is the basis for German Sauerkraut. Chinese suan cai and Korean kimchi are produced using the related Chinese cabbage. To pickle cabbage, it is covered with a brine made of its own juice with salt, and left in a warm place for several weeks to ferment. Sauerkraut (colloquially referred to as "kraut") was historically prepared at home in large batches, as a way of storing food for the winter. The word comes from German sauer (sour) and kraut (plant or cabbage) (Old High German sūr and krūt). Cabbage can also be pickled in vinegar with various spices, alone or in combination with other vegetables (turnips can be cured in the same way).

Medicinal properties[]

Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C. It also contains significant amounts of glutamine, an amino acid that has anti-inflammatory properties. Cabbage can also be included in dieting programs, as it is a low calorie food.

Along with broccoli and other Brassica vegetables, cabbage is a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. The compound is also used as an adjuvant 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. Boiling reduces anticancer 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.

Fresh cabbage juice has been shown to promote rapid healing of peptic ulcers.

Effect on the thyroid gland[]

Cabbage may also act as a goitrogen. It blocks organification in thyroid cells, thus inhibiting the production of the thyroid hormones (thyroxine and triiodothyronine). The result is an increased secretion of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) due to low thyroid hormone levels. This increase in TSH results in an enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter).


File:Cabbage Kosovo.JPG

Cabbage for sale in Pristina, Kosovo

There are many varieties of cabbage based on shape and time of maturity. Cabbages grown late in autumn and in the beginning of winter are called "coleworts"; their leaves do not form a compact head. "Colewort" may also refer to a young cabbage. The word comes from Latin caulis (stalk of a plant, cabbage) and Old English wyrt (herb, plant, root). A "drumhead" cabbage has a rounded, flattened head. An "oxheart" cabbage has an oval or conical head. A "pickling" cabbage, such as the red-leafed cabbage, is especially suitable for pickling; 'Krautman' is the most common variety for commercial production of sauerkraut. Red cabbage is a small, round-headed type with dark red leaves. Savoy cabbage has a round, compact head with crinkled and curled leaves. Winter cabbage will survive the winter in the open in mild regions such as the southern United States; the name is also used for Savoy cabbage. Other traditional varieties include white cabbage, 'Late Flat Dutch', 'Early Jersey Wakefield' (a conical variety), 'Danish Ballhead' (late, round-headed), 'Cuor di Bue Grosso' (conical heads, from Italy), 'Copenhagen Market Cabbage' (large round heads, from Denmark), and 'Mammoth Red Rock' (large round heads with deep red leaves).


China is the leading producer of cabbage (including Chinese cabbage and other brassicas), followed by India and the Russian Federation.


Cabbage output in 2005

File:The cut Indian cabbages.jpg

The cut Indian cabbages

Top ten producers of cabbage and other brassicas — 11 June 2008
Country Production (Tonnes) Footnote
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Cabbages are often harvested early when they are especially tender and small, and eaten as a "baby vegetable." Such cabbages taste sweeter than those later harvested and can be stored for a longer time.


Among the many destructive diseases affecting the cabbage and often other members of the cabbage family are:

  • blackleg or black stem, caused by certain fungi (such as Phoma lingam); lesions in the stem near the soil surface become sunken and dark, and may girdle the stem
  • black ring or black ring spot, caused by a virus; necrotic, dark and often sunken rings on the leaf surface
  • black rot, caused by a bacterium (Xanthomonas campestris)
  • cabbagehead, abnormal growth in rutabagas caused by larvae of a gall midge (Contarinia nasturtii) feeding in basal part of the stalks
  • cabbage yellows or cabbage wilt, caused by a fungus (Fusarium oxysporum or Fusarium conglutinans); yellowing and dwarfing
  • clubroot, common, caused by a protist (Plasmodiophora brassicae), formerly classified as a slime mold; swellings or distortions of the root, followed often by decline in vigor or by death
  • wire stem, caused by a fungus (Pellicularia filamentosa or Rhizoctonia solani); constricted, wiry stem; similar to damping-off but attacks older seedlings


(See also List of Lepidoptera that feed on Brassica).

Many insects and other pests infest cabbage plants, among them:

  • cabbage worm, any of numerous insect larvae that feed on cabbages:
    • imported cabbage worm, the green larvae of the cabbage butterfly or cabbage white, any of several largely white butterflies (family Pieridae, type genus Pieris, garden whites); they include a small cosmopolitan form (P. rapae), called also small white; a larger Old World form (P. brassicae), called also large white; a common North American form (P. protodice), called also checkered white or southern cabbage butterfly; and the green-veined white (P. napi), occurring in Europe and North America; larvae eat the leaves, are toxic to animals that consume the infested foliage
    • cabbage moth or diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) larva, cosmopolitan of European origin
    • cabbage webworm (Hellula undalis), widely distributed, native to southern Europe or Asia, destructive in the U.S. Gulf states
    • cutworm
  • cabbage aphid, cabbage aphis or turnip aphid, widely distributed and destructive grayish-green plant louse (Brevicoryne brassicae); lives on leaves
  • cabbage curculio, small weevil (Ceutorhynchus rapae); feeds within stems and on leaves
  • cabbage fly, cabbage root fly, root fly or turnip fly (Hylemya brassicae or Delia radicum, family Anthomyiidae), adult of small white cabbage maggot or root maggot that feeds in roots and stems
  • cabbage-leaf miner, small fly (Phytomyza rufipes) whose maggot is injurious
  • cabbage looper, pale green, white-striped measuring worm (Trichoplusia ni), larva of a moth of the family Noctuidae; feeds on leaves
  • cabbage seedpod weevil (Ceutorhynchus assimilis), small, grayish black; related to the cabbage curculio, but smaller; feeds on and destroys developing seeds
  • cabbage snake, nematode worm of the family Mermithidae, parasitic on insect pests
  • gamma moth or silver Y moth (Plusia gamma) larva; migratory European noctuid moth having a bright, silvery, Y-shaped mark on each fore wing
  • harlequin cabbage bug (Murgantia histrionica), black stinkbug in tropical America and the warmer parts of the United States
  • serpentine leaf miner, grub that is the larva of a small fly (Liriomyza brassicae); eats out slender, white, winding burrows in the leaves
  • striped flea beetle (Phyllotreta striolata); has a yellow line on each elytron
  • zebra caterpillar, larva of an American noctuid moth (Ceramica picta); light yellow with a broad black stripe on the back and lateral stripes crossed with white

Related Brassica varieties and species[]

Besides cabbage proper, the species Brassica oleracea has many distinctive cultivars that are commonly known by other names. They include: broccoli (Italica group); Brussels sprouts (Gemmifera group), whose edible small green heads resemble diminutive cabbages; cauliflower (Botrytis group), whose flower cluster is used as a vegetable; Chinese kale or Chinese broccoli (Alboglabra group); kale or spring greens, a very hardy cabbage (Acephala group) that has curled, often finely cut leaves that do not form a dense head; collard greens, a type of kale; and kohlrabi (Gongylodes group), having an edible stem that becomes greatly enlarged, fleshy and turnip-shaped. Hybrids include broccolini (Italica × Alboglabra group), broccoflower (Italica × Botrytis group) and choumoelliera or marrow cabbage (cabbage, kohlrabi and kale).

There are two species of Chinese cabbage (lettuce cabbage, pakchoi, pechay) from Asia that somewhat resemble cabbage and are widely used as greens: Brassica chinensis, bok choy or celery cabbage, which forms a loose, chardlike head of dark green leaves, and Brassica pekinensis, or pe-tsai (peh-tsai), forming an elongated compact head of broad, light green leaves. Rape, an annual herb (Brassica napus) of European origin but known only as a cultigen, differs from the cabbage in its deeply lobed leaves, which are not hairy like those of the turnip.

Other "cabbage" plants[]

File:Dojranski zelki.jpg

Cabbage field near Dojran, Republic of Macedonia

A number of other noncruciferous plants bear the name "cabbage" or are likened to it by their appearance, though many are not food plants with parts for human consumption.

  • Several palms, called cabbage palm or cabbage tree, have a terminal bud (cabbage, palm cabbage or palmito) eaten like cabbage as a vegetable, including:
    • assai palm (palmiste, royal palm, sago palm, Euterpe edulis)
    • cabbage palmetto (palm cabbage, palm thatch, pond top, pond top palmetto, sabal palmetto, swamp cabbage, species Sabal palmetto), a fan palm with an edible young terminal bud called "heart of palm"
    • Cussonia genus, an araliaceous tree
    • Livistona, especially L. australis, from Australia, from which the fibrous leaves are plaited into the cabbage-tree hat
    • mountain palm (Roystonea oleracea), a tall West Indian palm, the source of partridgewood
    • saw cabbage palm (saw palmetto, Acoelorrhaphe wrightii)
    • ti (Cordyline australis), a medium-sized New Zealand tree
  • Other kinds of trees seen as bearing a resemblance include:
    • cabbage bark (genus Andira), also called angelim or worm bark, whose bark (cabbage bark) is sometimes used in medicine as a vermifuge
    • Surinam cabbage tree (Andira retusa), having bark that is used as an anthelmintic and cathartic
    • black cabbage tree (Melanodendron integrifolium), with a campanulate involucre about the flower head
    • cabbage gum (especially Eucalyptus pauciflora and E. virgata), probably so called from the fleshy leaves
  • Still other cabbage-like plants include:
    • cabbage rose (also moss rose, pale rose or Provence rose, Rosa centifolia), a fragrant garden rose having full white or pink flowers, with a dwarf variety (pomponia) called pompon
    • deer cabbage (Lupinus diffusus), a lupine
    • dog cabbage (dog's cabbage, Theligonum cynocrambe), a fleshy southern European herb
    • head lettuce (cabbage lettuce, Lactuca sativa var. capitata), distinguished by leaves arranged in a dense rosette, which ultimately develops into a compact head suggesting that of cabbage
    • Kerguelen cabbage, a herb (Pringlea antiscorbutica, also called horseradish) in the family Brassicaceae, from the Indian Ocean island of Kerguelen
    • Maori cabbage, the wild cabbage of New Zealand
    • native cabbage (Scaevola taccada), a succulent Australian shrub
    • poor man's cabbage (Barbarea verna), a winter cress
    • Saint-Patrick's cabbage (London pride, Saxifraga x urbium), a hardy perennial saxifrage native to western Europe
    • sea cabbage, also called sea kale, a European perennial herb (Crambe maritima) sometimes cultivated for its large, ovate, long-stalked leaves, used as a potherb (distinct from Brassica oleracea)
    • skunk cabbage (fetid hellebore, meadow cabbage, polecat weed, skunkweed; stinking poke, swamp cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus or its Asian relative Lysichiton camstschatcense) (the name is sometimes used for the pitcher plant)
    • squaw cabbage (Indian lettuce, Montia perfoliata), a succulent herb; or any of various plants of the family Brassicaceae, especially of the genera Caulanthus and Streptanthus, believed to have been used as potherbs by the Indians
    • water cabbage (Nymphaea odorata), a white water lily
    • water lettuce (also called water cabbage, Pistia stratiotes), a common tropical floating plant forming a rosette of spongy, wedge-shaped leaves
    • wild cabbage, a succulent herb (Caulanthus crassicaulis) of the family Brassicaceae that has edible foliage
    • Nereocystis, sea-otter's-cabbage (bladder kelp, sea turnip), a brown alga

Linguistic and vernacular associations[]

During World War II, "kraut" was an ethnic slur for a German soldier or civilian.

A thick-witted person may be called a "cabbagehead". In Hebrew, the term rosh kruv (cabbagehead) implies stupidity.

In Italian, cavolo (cabbage) is a mildly impolite expression with a similar connotation to the English "crap".

The French use a term of endearment, mon chou or mon petit chou, equivalent to "darling", but translated literally as "my little cabbage" in school French textbooks in England since the late 1950s. This is still used today, as can be seen in this extract from Shamrocks Falling by P A Matthews:

“See there ma petite chou, now everything is worked out.”
Patricia turned and walked back to the desk. “Gérard, why must you call me ma petite chou all the time?”
“Ma chérie, it is an endearment. If you understood that in French…”
She cut him off mid sentence. “I know what it means Gérard. Even with my limited French vocabulary I know that it means my small cabbage.”
“But that is not the endearment. You do not understand…”'

In French, however, the term is only used in the masculine form as the word "chou" is masculine.

The word also refers to a pâtisserie item called chou à la crème, a sphere of light, airy pastry split and sandwiched with a thick layer of whipped or confectioner's cream. In addition, it is also used for a soft, cabbage-shaped ornament or rosette of fabric used in women's wear, such as a knot of ribbons on a dress or a crushed crown on a hat. Chou comes from the Latin caulis (stalk).

In England, cabbage is a rarely used slang word for cash, especially paper money or bank notes. It is also used vulgarly for a person in a vegetative state, and by extension, "cabbaging" means "lazing about". In Russian, капуста (kapusta) is also a widely used slang word for cash.

See also[]

  • Cabbage Head, Tilbury, Ontario
  • Cabbage Patch Kids
  • Cabbage soup diet
  • Chinese cabbage resembles cabbage, but is derived from a different species of the same genus, Brassica campestris
  • Kerguelen cabbage is the distantly related Pringlea antiscorbutica


This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Cabbage.
The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Horticulture and Soil Science Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Licence.

External links[]

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