Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Fresh this Month (and next): Pointed (hispi, sweetheart) Cabbage

 Cabbage, that much-dreaded ingredient of school dinners, is really a delicious, vibrant, versatile and nutritious vegetable, and right now in the Northern Hemisphere it's cheap and plentiful, both as Spring greens and pointed cabbage. Forget the soggy, watery boiled stuff they gave you at school: pointed- aka sweetheart or hispi- cabbage is sweet, tender and perfect for stir fries, casseroles, wraps; just about anything you want to do with it bar boiling. (There's no vegetable I know of on this Earth that can survive boiling with flavour and nutrients intact!)
Cabbages belong to the cruciferae, a family of veg named after the cross-shaped flowers, and which includes the mustards, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages and kales. They are all packed full of vitamin and mineral goodness, the kales in particular being classed as "superfoods", and pointed cabbage is no exception.

Cabbage has probably been cultivated in Europe for over 3000 years and, was used by the Ancient Egyptians as well as the Greeks. During the Middle Ages some of the forms which are recognisable today were developed.

Like all cabbage, pointed cabbage is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K and folate. It also contains plenty of dietary fibre: these are the main nutritional benefits of cabbage per100g (cooked) serving- the aforementioned nutrients are present at about 20% of RDA. There's also a "nutritionally significant" (whatever that means) amount of vitamin B6 in there too. And all this for just 16 calories per serving!
Cabbage not only feeds your body; it heals it too! It contains phytochemicals such as sulforaphane and other glucosinolates which are now thought to stimulate the body to produce detoxifying enzymes. Indole-3-carbinol, another phytochemical found in cabbage and all cruciferae, is currently being researched for anti-carcinogenic properties, since cabbage appears to protect against colon cancer.
Cabbage has long been used in natural medicine; I can vouch for its mastitis-soothing properties when applied as a hot poultice to the affected area. According to the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, cabbage could be used against bruising, sore eyes and even as a hangover cure. During the First World War cabbage leaf poultices were used to treat trench foot.

...So is coleslaw your favourite way to eat cabbage, or do you prefer it stir fried? Do you have any favourite cabbage recipes to share? Have you ever used cabbage leaves as medicine? -We want to know, so please feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Fridge Spy (For Tinned Tomatoes)

Jacqueline Meldrew of the awesome blog Tinned Tomatoes issued a fridge challenge a couple of weeks ago: "I'll show you mine if you show me yours": so here's ours, perhaps a little tidier than usual after our weekly shop:

  1. Top shelf, l-r: Concessional block of cheese (I'm being honest here so let's get that out of the way now!) because our teenagers still eat it, fresh dates from a Turkish grocery, ground linseeds, tamarind concentrate, miso, tomato puree, lemon juice, 4-seed mix, salad dressing made from olive oil and lemon juice and a container of various pickles and chutneys, including fiercely hot Chinese fermented soyabean and chilli much loved by my stepsons, and my far milder homemade date and tamarind chutney.
  2. Middle shelf, l-r: Home made cashew cheeze spread made earlier in the day to go with some soda bread and soup, peppers, aubergines and a container of chillies, ginger root and lemongrass so I can lay my hands on them fast when I'm making stir fry.
  3. Bottom shelf, l-r: Spring greens, cauliflower, pointed cabbage, celery (no room in the salad drawer at the moment or I'd keep it there to stay nicely crisp) and 3 packets of asparagus. The asparagus was only in there for about an hour before I made asparagus tart with it!
  4. Salad drawer: Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and a whole bunch of chopped-into things to be used up that you can't see in the picture.
  5. Bottom drawer: Home grown pumpkin, organic broccoli, organic carrots, Brussels sprouts and orange sweet potatoes. 
  6. Inside door, from top: vegan margarine, stepson's wheatgrass powder, shelf of various jams including blackcurrant, strawberry, marmalade, and home made clementine marmalade. The bottom shelf from l-r: amla juice, stepson's Hershey's chocolate sauce from the States, 2 cartons of soya milk, 2 bottles of sriracha (the boys love it!) and some ginger drink we were given.
The veggies are either homegrown or from Aldi, and bought condiments are from a variety of local ethnic groceries. There's usually some home grown beetroot in there too but I'd used it all up the day before, and it's not unusual to find a jug of home made hemp milk, a jar of olives, home made hummus or some leftovers from previous meals.