Seriously, I'm not talkin' crazy. Actually, vegetables can and do tell you a lot about themselves. You just have to "listen" with your eyes to "hear" what they are saying, so to speak.
For example, if you were grocery shopping, which of the cabbages would you choose? One cabbage is saying,"Pick me! I'm the tastiest, crunchiest and most nutritious!"
If you chose Cabbage B, you would have heard right. Cabbage B would feel solid, dense and heavy for its size. The leaves would contain more Vitamin C. The texture would be crispier and less fibrous. The flavor would be sweeter and tastier. The chi, or vital energy, contained in the Cabbage B would still be potent and held in the leaves.
The pointy-shaped head of Cabbage A is its telltale signature. The vital energy of this cabbage is waning from the edible leafy parts, and waxing toward producing seeds. The central core of this cabbage is elongating, extending upward to produce blossoms, followed by seeds. As the core stretches upward, spaces form between the leaf layers and the cabbage head feels lighter and more hollow. The core and the leaves become tough and woody. The example below shows the internal structural differences between the bolting cabbage on the left and the full, dense cabbage on the right.
Bolting occurs when the ground temperature surpasses a certain threshold and this flips a survival switch in the plant, causing it to abandon leaf growth for rapidly producing flowers and seeds. Cabbages are a cold-loving vegetable that prefer temperatures around 60-65℉, but can grow in temperatures as low as 45℉. That's why these green vegetables are the sweetest and most delicious during the cooler months of the year. However, once temperatures climb above 80℉, they quickly start to bolt.
Cabbages belong to a large family of vegetables known as brassica. Other family members include bok choy, Napa cabbage, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mustard greens, kale, broccoli and more. Now that you know some of what a cabbage might be telling you, you too, can pick out a better cabbage.
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If cabbages could talk, they would tell you a most interesting historical saga of how they came to partner with the human race. Cabbage, as we know it today, has evolved from a large species of plants known as brassicas that contains more than 1,000 members. Cabbage has been cultivated from its wild origins and spread around the world by human hands. There are two broader categories of cabbage: Those that form heads and those of non-heading varieties. Cabbage has graced the plates of the rich and poor as a tasty, sustaining and health-giving staple vegetable for millennia.
Common theories suggest that European round-headed cabbages evolved from wild predecessors 3,000 years ago. These cabbages were able to survive and thrive in colder regions with less water. The familiar round-headed cabbages that we know today first appeared in 14th century England.
In the East, cabbages of the non-heading varieties have been developed and widely consumed for 4,000 years, stemming from early cultivation in Northern China.
The Greeks and Romans valued cabbages, touting medicinal values to relieve gout, headaches and even symptoms from consuming poisonous mushrooms. Some really odd advice was to use the cabbage-eater’s urine to bathe infants! It is said that Romans ate plenty of cabbage the night before drinking revelry because it allowed them to consume more alcohol.
Cabbage spread globally. It is believed that Portuguese traders brought cabbages to India between the 14th and 17th centuries. Cabbage was unknown to the Japanese until the 18thcentury. It was first brought to America by the French explorer Jacques Cartier during his thirdvoyage in 1541-1542. Cabbage was carried on long ocean voyages because of its high vitamin C content, which helped prevent scurvy. Ship doctors used sauerkraut -- brine-fermented cabbage -- to combat scurvy. The brine itself was used to treat wounds and prevent gangrene.
Today we know cabbage has many other health and nutritional benefits. Studies show that cabbage helps protect us from cancers of the breast, colon and prostate. It reduces “bad cholesterol”, supports heart health and can lower high blood pressure. The noticeably high Vitamin C boosts immunity.
Cabbage contains many vitamins and minerals, the most noticeably high being Vitamin C and Vitamin K. Vitamin C boosts immunity and helps reduce some types of inflammation. Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and stimulating osteoblast bone cell production to combat osteoporosis. Vitamin K also limits neural brain damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The chlorophyll in cabbage is beneficial to liver health.
Our ancestors selected brassicas from the wild, and cultivated this plant over untold meals as well as with the slow, patience of generations and seasons of plantings. People valued cabbages enough to carry the seeds with them in their travels and migrations in order to sow cabbage seeds around the globe.
There's an Angel in My Cabbage
by Cynthia Briscoe
We’ve had a tremendous amount of rain the past few weeks. Not just a drizzle, but weeks of constant, unrelenting rain. The ground is saturated to the point that the soil can accept no more water, and many areas have flash-flooded due to runoff. One morning, perhaps too early to be called morning, an urge woke me from sleep. Even though it was only 3:30am, my mind was saturated with sleep, just like the ground was saturated with water outside, with no more need for rest. Thoughts were raining down and settling, so I got up, thinking to do some quiet writing in the peace of the slumbering household.
I had just settled at the computer when I thought I heard a knock at the door. Was I still in that in-between state cozied between sleeping and waking? No, I definitely heard the knocking again, this time more urgent.
I got up and went to the door, still flannelled in pajamas and sock-footed. There was a man’s face at the door. I would probably not be able to identify him if I saw him on the street today, because his features were rain-streaked like a watercolor portrait that had been left out in the rain. More clearly than his features, I noticed burgeoning water drops forming and loosening from the collar points of his plaid shirt.
Our front door is a French door, with four rows of windowpanes from top to bottom. It was dark outside with the exception of the porch lights that wavered like two faltering embers, struggling to stay lit amidst so much dampness. Except for his imploring watery eyes, he was silent.
“Yes?” I asked, “Can I help you?” not daring to unlock the door.
He began with a litany of broken thoughts about “Why? I am a good person," and continued on about his younger brother, his mother and her little dog. He just wanted a yard where his mother could have her little dog…and something about a fire. He kept repeating, “Why? I am a good person.” It was difficult to follow his thoughts more than just to understand his desperation with life and circumstances and how nothing made sense to him. I figured he must be one of the thousands of persons displaced during the horrible recent Camp Fire where 14,000 homes were burned and 86 people lost their lives.
He asked me again, “Why? I’m a good person. Why?”
I wanted so badly to know the right words and to name the answer that would bring order to his disheveled world and make sense of things. I faltered finding the right words, and something in me panicked, accompanying him alongside his desperation.
Only two words came to mind and I blurted them out, “You’re alive!” I felt somehow my inability to explain the meaning of life shorted his suffering, but I could not scramble together any other words to express the complexity of his situation and give meaning.
He was so intent on an answer and for some reason clinging to the belief that I had the right answer to soothe him. He mentioned he was drawn to come knock on the door. It was difficult to hear through the door and he asked me, “What, what did you say?”
“You’re alive!” I repeated. Still, he could not hear me. I spoke louder, pressing my mouth close to the glass as he pressed his ear against the pane. Our common humanity was separated by the 3/8-inch thickness of the window glass.
“You’re alive!” I shouted even louder. This time he heard me, but seemed deflated, even defeated by my answer.
I asked him what he needed right now. He said, “I’m so tired. I just want to sleep. I just want to sleep. Can I sleep on your porch?” glancing over at the dry, cushioned armchair on our porch.
A huge part of me longed to invite him inside and set a blazing fire in the fireplace, offer him a hot bath and warm food. Conflicting was my own instinctual preservation to acknowledge the risk for a 65 year-old woman in pajamas to invite a man into her quiet sleeping house. Perhaps I could offer greater hospitality after the sun rose and David was awake.
He settled into the chair and I brought him my favorite warm blanket from the sofa and went back inside the house, locking the door. I hoped he could get warm and rest a bit. I resolved to make him a mug of hot tea and some breakfast porridge. When I returned with the tea, the chair was empty. He and the blanket had disappeared into the darkness beyond the porch.
I returned to the kitchen to finish preparing some breakfast. When I cut open the cabbage, there was an angel inside the cabbage; at least that’s what I saw. Somehow, seeing that angel comforted me. It reminded me that Nature’s grace and wisdom is everywhere, is trustworthy and even visible inside a head of cabbage. Surely if the shape and form of an angel lives inside a cabbage, it must live inside us as well.
What is the meaning
of life? That is a marvelous question Herman Aihara posed to his students.