"Cabbage smells good, but depends on which way
the wind blows.
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Many, many thoughts about cabbage, over the centuries.
Whereas Publius Syrus, 42 BCE, said in his Maxims,"He who has plenty of pepper will pepper his cabbage"--Juvenal, 1st century AD, said: Occidit miseros crambe repetita magistros, or "that cabbage hashed up again and again proves the death of the wretched teachers.
Montaigne, 16th century, said: Je veux...que la mort me trouve plantant mes choux, mais nonchalant d'elle, et encoure plus de mon jardin imparfait, or "I want death to find me planting my cabbages, but caring little for it, and much more for my imperfect garden."
The Walrus, courtesy of Lewis Carroll, 19th century, said, "The time has come...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."
It remained for Sir John Betjeman, early 20th century, to say of modern warfare's bitter harvest: "Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough To get it ready for the plough. The cabbages are coming now: The earth exhales."
And what do botanists say? They say cabbages are one of the most ancient of vegetables that are still grown today. They were cultivated as far back as 4000 years ago--making Publius Syrus a downright infant in the subject.
Today the really really common cabbage--Capitata group, so called because of its Capita or Head shape--is classified into 3 types: green leaved, with smooth green leaves; red cabbage, with purplish red leaves; and savoy cabbage, with crinkled leaves. Galician cabbage--traditional in Portugal's Caldo Verde, is classified as Brassica oleracea, Tronchuda group. It stands apart from the main Capitata group.
However, different varietals of cabbage were grown and cultivated in Asia from the earliest times. These include:
And other family members?
Slavs began growing cabbages in the 9th century, after Greek and Roman colonists had brought them to the Black Sea region and they worked their way north into Russia. Within a few centuries, Russian princes were paying tribute not only with racing horses and jewels, but also with garden plots planted with kopusta, or cabbage. Now considered Russia's national food, cabbage is often consumed at several meals of the day, and Russians eat some seven times as much cabbage as the average American.
Then it was the Celts, apparently, who introduced cabbage to the lands they invaded--from the Mediterranean lands in the south to the British Isles in the north, and to the east as far as Asia Minor. It was, much later, introduced to North America by the early colonists. However, the varietal of Napa cabbage, which was introduced into Japan from China in the 1860s, was quickly brought to America by immigrant laborers in the 1880s and 1890s.
For an interesting story about the role of cabbage in 19th century Burmese almsgiving, click HERE.