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Crop of the Week: Red cabbage
• In 2011, Yuma area producers grew red cabbage on about 750 acres, valued at more than $950,000. Red cabbage acreage in the Yuma area was less than its sister crop, green cabbage.
• The cabbage is grown here as a fresh cut crop and as a colorful addition to the packaged salads produced in the many salad plants in the area.
• Although red cabbage (Brassica oleracea) has dark red or purple leaves, the plant changes its color according to the acidity of the soil. On acidic soils, the leaves grow more reddish while an alkaline soil (as here in Yuma) will produce rather greenish-yellow colored cabbages. This explains the fact that the very same plant is known by different colors in the various regions where it is grown.
• Red cabbage is often used for salads and coleslaw. Ever wonder how coleslaw got its name? Well, “cole” is the Old English word for cabbage — the main ingredient of that dish.
• Cabbage is very versatile. It can be shredded and eaten raw in a salad such as coleslaw or cooked for a simple but tasty side dish. Cabbage leaves can be wrapped around a hearty filling for delicious stuffed cabbage. Sauerkraut is cabbage that has been pickled.
• It is the flavonoids in cabbage that give it its color. Red cabbage has a flavonoid called anthocyanin, which is also found in blueberries and flower petals and can help prevent a variety of diseases.
• Cabbage is a rich source of fiber, iron and vitamins A and C. It's high in fiber and very low in sodium. It's a great food for dieters because it gives a feeling of fullness, yet it's very low in calories. A cup of shredded raw cabbage contains just 24 calories.
• Eating vegetables from the cabbage family can boost the body's resistance to disease. The vegetables contain natural chemical compounds that may help prevent certain types of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. The odor it emits comes from the sulphur content of cabbage, which helps the body resist infection and protects the protoplasm of the cells. It is said to aid in producing glossy hair.
• On cooking, red cabbage will normally turn blue. To retain the red color, add vinegar or acidic fruit to the pot.
• Red cabbage stores longer than its green relatives.
• One of the oldest known vegetables, the cabbage seems to always have been with us. It grew both East and West, though the early cabbage was a weedy, loose-leafed plant. The firm head that we know today was a later development, most closely resembling kale, to which it is related.
• Less popular vegetables in the cabbage family include arugula, bok choy, Swiss chard, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, rutabaga, turnips, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts and watercress.
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.