Crop of the Week: Chinese cabbage
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• In Yuma County, production of all cabbage, including Chinese, was valued at $1.5 million in 2009. Yearly cabbage acreage consistently hovers around 1,000 acres.
• While several types of Chinese cabbage exist, the variety we most commonly associate with Chinese cabbage is the large-headed cabbage with the firmly packed, pale green leaves that is usually found next to bok choy in supermarkets. It has an oblong head with tightly packed pale green to white, crinkled leaves. It is also known as Peking cabbage and celery cabbage.
• Chinese cabbage has a mild flavor and is a versatile cabbage that can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in stir-fry and soups. Look for firm green leaves that are not wilted and store in a plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator.
• Chinese cabbage was introduced into Japan from China in the 1860s and was brought to North America by immigrant laborers in the late 1800s.
• While the Savoy cabbage is among the highest in beta carotene, the Chinese cabbage is highest in calcium. Cabbage contains quercetin, an antioxidant that is a natural antihistamine that can benefit allergy sufferers.
• Uncooked cabbage is high in glutamine, an amino acid that is essential for intestinal health. Cabbages are a good source of vitamin K, which is essential in the production of blood-clotting proteins. It also is high in potassium, which helps to regulate blood pressure, promotes a steady heartbeat and can lower your risk of stroke. Red cabbage provides the most vitamin C.
• A chemical (isothiocyanates) found in cabbages may lower the risk of lung cancer in smokers by as much as 38 percent.
• Cabbages are from the family Cruciferae, a large family that contains many vegetables. It is also called the mustard family. The family name comes from the Latin word for “cross” and was given to members of this family because the flowers are cross-shaped.
• Although they look very different, cabbage, kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are all the same species of plant. The differences between these plants are the results of thousands of years of human cultivation and selective propagation.
• There is historical and botanical evidence that cabbage has been cultivated for more than 4,000 years and domesticated for over 2,500 years. Before cole crops were domesticated, they were collected from the wild and used primarily as medicinal herbs.
• Babe Ruth used to wear a cabbage leaf under his hat during games. He would switch out for a fresh leaf halfway through each game.
Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 726-3904.