Red cabbage

properties of red cabbage

Red cabbage


Red cabbage is very similar to cabbage, but less closed and with a color that is purple, magenta or purple. This color is due to the presence of a pigment called anthocyanin. And it has a highly appreciated slightly sweet taste. It is known by different names, such as: red cabbage, red cabbage, purple cabbage, red cabbage or purple cabbage.

Characteristics of red cabbage

Red cabbage is one of the foods that provides the least calories and is a source of isothiocyanates, which are related to anticancer properties.

Its origin is linked to the Mediterranean area since time immemorial. So much so that there are data that indicate that it was already cultivated by the Egyptians  2,500 years before Christ. Likewise, it was also highly appreciated by the Greeks and Romans  with uses both in the kitchen and in medicine , since with it they made plasters and poultices  of effective remedy for various ills. It was the Roman civilization that was in charge of spreading its culinary and medicinal attributes throughout the Mediterranean. Due to its high content of vitamins and minerals , during the High Middle Ages it was considered the doctor of the poor , even using it as a poultice to achieve healing effects. 

For more than two centuries it has been one of the typical dishes of Madrid Christmas, known in traditional slang as “turkey from the garden”. In each language it receives a name: Red cabbage in Spanish, Red cabbage in English, Rotkohl in German, Chou pommé rouge in French, Cavolo cappuccio in Italian.

The red cabbage is Brassica oleraceae var. Capitata frubra , and is a plant of the cruciferous family. It is an annual plant with a root of a certain thickness, an erect and consistent but woody stem, reddish leaves with a more or less oval blade and a wavy edge. The useful part of the plant is the pellet. For its cultivation it is not very demanding in terms of needs for light, water and type of soil. It is considered optimal for harvesting when its pellet is well formed and compact. Once collected, its weight ranges between 0.5 and 1.5 kg.

But the peculiarity that defines this cabbage is undoubtedly its purple, purple or purplish red color . This hue is directly related to anthocyanins (vegetable pigment, of the flavonoid type). This coloration is affected by the pH of the soil where it is grown, since in more acidic substrates the cabbages are more reddish, while in alkaline soils they become more bluish.

Nutritional value of red cabbage

Red cabbage is one of the foods that contributes the least calories to our body (20-25 Kcal. Per 100 grams of edible part, in part this particularity is due to its low carbohydrate content (3.54 grams per 100 grams of edible part) and 91% water. It does not have cholesterol, and only 0.18 grams of lipids and 1.50 grams of protein per 100 grams of edible part . Indicate that this vegetable has 32 mg of purines per every 100 grams of edible part.

It is also a vegetable rich in fiber (cellulose), so much so that its total fiber content is 2.50 grams per 100 grams of edible part. Regarding its vitamin contribution, it stands out for its content of vitamin C (57 mg per 100 grams of edible part) and beta-carotenes (15 µg per 100 grams of edible part). It also provides us with vitamins of the B complex (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7 and B9), vitamin E (1.70 mg per 100 grams of edible part) and vitamin K.

Among the minerals with significant figures are selenium (0.92 µg per 100 grams of edible part), potassium (250 mg per 100 grams of edible part), phosphorus (30 mg per 100 grams of edible part) and magnesium . In addition to also having calcium (52 ​​mg per 100 grams of edible part), iodine, zinc (80.22 mg per 100 grams of edible part), iron (0.44 mg per 100 grams).

Red cabbage is rich in phytochemicals such as isothiocyanates or glucosinolates . Glucosinolates are nitrogen-sulfur compounds found exclusively in the genus Brassica and closely related species of crucifers. It is not intact glucosinolates but their degradation products (thiocyanates, isothiocyanates, oxazolidines and nitriles) obtained by the action of the enzyme myrosinase that are responsible for the biological effects and the characteristic flavor associated with these crops. Among them, isothiocyanates have been linked to anticancer properties.

It also has flavonoids such as quercetin and anthocyanins, substances with an important antioxidant action and responsible for its characteristic color. So much so that the term anthocyanin was proposed in 1835 by the German pharmacist Ludwig Clamor Marquart (1804-1881) to describe the blue pigment in red cabbage.

Red cabbage for healthy consumption

The high cellulose content of red cabbage, as well as sulfur compounds, can cause some digestive discomfort to those who consume this vegetable. In order to avoid it, it is important to follow the following tips for consumption:

  • Red cabbage is better tolerated when eaten raw  rather than cooked. For this we will chop it very finely when we make salads with it.
  • When we prepare dishes with it, it is not advisable to use ingredients that are too greasy (bacon or sauces with cream or cheese), or strong seasonings.
  • Use carminative seasonings, such  as cumin and fennel, in case the taste of these is not to our liking it is possible to resort to capsules or tablets that are in specialized stores and in pharmacies and take them after the meal.
  • Use mint, anise, sage or fennel infusions for dessert or take chamomile instead to which we will add mint, some grains of green anise, fennel or cumin.
  • In order not to lose its vitamins and nutrients, the ideal is to cook it to the point (about 40 minutes over low heat).

Use in the kitchen of red cabbage

Although the most common is to take cooked red cabbage, it can also be consumed raw as part of salads, accompanying lettuce, tomato, carrot, onions, asparagus, tuna in oil, nuts and yogurt. This is a very typical recipe from the Murcia region.

In Germany this vegetable is also used, either alone or together with cabbage for the preparation of Coleslaw or cole slaw. It is a salad whose main ingredient is cabbage, raw and chopped into a very fine julienne. This salad is usually accompanied by carrot, also finely chopped, or red cabbage, pineapple, apple … it is usually dressed with a vinaigrette and modernly with mixed mayonnaise and mustard.

It is convenient to leave the salad dressed a couple of hours before, so that the ingredients marinate a little. To do this, it is best to season it, cover it with a plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Once cooked, it is usually used in broths and vegetable stews, as well as as garnishes for second courses or simply sautéed with garlic and olive oil.

In the kitchen they are often used cooked with potatoes (a typical Christmas dish in Madrid). According to the custom at Christmas Eve dinner, red cabbage is made in the style of Madrid, for this it is cooked with onion, oil, pippin apple, streaky bacon, sugar, salt and pepper. The round and more colored varieties are usually used in the preparation of pickles.

What do I need to know to buy red cabbage?

We can find red cabbage in the markets during the winter months. It is generally marketed fresh, although it can also form part of pickles and 4th range foods, combined with other vegetables. To know that it is fresh it is necessary that it present a texture that remains firm to the touch and that the outer leaves are shiny, as well how to present a fresh and flawless appearance. The red cabbage specimens that can be considered of higher quality are the hardest, crunchy, compact and heavy in relation to their size and their characteristic purple color.

Reject those that have a dry, split, slimy or woody core and wilted leaves or that their inner leaves are the same as the outer ones (indicates that the outer leaves have been removed to hide the lack of freshness). As well as those that give off strong odors.

How to preserve red cabbage at home?

Red cabbage can be kept for 2 to 3 weeks, since it is one of the vegetables that better withstand the passage of time. To do this, they must be placed in a perforated bag, inside the refrigerator and in the vegetable drawer. It is advisable not to wash until it is to be consumed, so it will be better preserved.

Learn more about red cabbage

A curious use is the use of this vegetable as a natural pH indicator The water used to cook red cabbage can be used to determine whether a substance is acidic or basic. To do this, cook some red cabbage leaves in a liter of water for a few minutes. The water that remains is a showy purple color . Put a little of this water in a glass and add a few drops of vinegar, you will see how the water turns pink.

In another glass put another little water to cook the red cabbage and add a few drops of ammonia, you will see that the water turns blue and then green. The substances that make it turn pink, like vinegar, are acidic substances and those that turn it blue or green are bases. We can use this curiosity of red cabbage to analyze the substances we want from home.  

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