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CABBAGES with class

Cabbages have a long tradition in the Rob Smith household. This month he delves into the rich history of this allotment favourite and digs up some fascinating heritage varieties
‘Brunswick’, great for making sauerkraut

Cabbages are believed to have evolved from the humble sea kale, a plant that grows wild in Northern Europe, ranging from the North Atlantic to the Black Sea. This primitive member of the brassica family is actually a perennial with a unique cabbage/asparagus/samphire taste. You can still find sea kale growing wild on the coastline and you can even buy seeds to have a go at growing yourself, though it’s not this plant I want to talk about but its suspected offspring… cabbage.

A staple diet of the Romans, cabbage was used for everything from feeding cattle to gracing the banquets of the emperor. In fact, there are records of cabbages being used for the most wonderful and weird things, from mixing cabbage juice with honey to relieve bee stings, to new mothers wearing cabbage leaves to help promote milk production. One of my favourite cabbage superstitions has to be what my grandma always used to say: “A plate of cabbage and beans eaten on New Year’s Day will guarantee good luck for the coming year.” To be honest I don’t know about that, but I do know it would guarantee a rather fragrant household if everyone had a plateful!

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About Kitchen Garden Magazine

Kitchen Garden is Britain's best guide to growing your own. It offers advice from the finest minds in gardening to make sure you get the tastiest produce from your plot.