The Origin of the Cabbage

The origin of the cabbage goes far and wide both as a part of the culinary world and as a medicine.

Believed to have been brought to Europe by ancient Celtic wanderers, the wild cabbage wasn’t always as compact and tight as they are today.  They were loose-leafed and only the plants with the largest leaves were favored.

This led to the development of the vegetable we know today as kale.  The botanical word for kale means “cabbage of the vegetable garden without a head.”

In ancient Greek and Rome, the cabbage was held in esteem as a plant that can treat a host of health conditions such as inflammation, weak vision and snake bites.

Food history does not tell us exactly when and where the cabbage we know today was grown, but as people expressed preference to the tight cluster of leaves located at the center of the plant, this type of cabbage spread across Russia, Germany, and Poland until finally becoming a native in the Mediterranean region of Europe.

As time continues, approximately in the first century AD, the cabbage evolved from being loose-leafed, to a vegetable we are more familiar with –one with a denser and bigger center head.  The botanical name of this cabbage type translates to the “cabbage of the vegetable garden with a head.”

Time, selection, plant breeding and genetics also gave birth to other similar vegetable of the same species such as brussel sprouts and collard.

It was Jacques Cartier who brought cabbage to Canada in 1541 to 1542.  He planted it there and early settlers must have grown it in what is now the United States.

The shape of the first cabbage with a head was round.  Other shapes like the flat-headed cabbage and conical and other cultivars appeared in the 17th until the 18th century.

Currently, Germany, France and the Low Countries are the ones who are the most productive in cultivating the new cabbage varieties.