Cabbage is native to the Mediterranean regions of Southwestern Europe and Southern England. The uncultivated species, with its stalks of few leaves and flowers, bears little resemblance to the heads of today?s cabbage heads. Earliest records describe its use since the 5th century B.C. but botanists estimate it was cultivated long before that.
Although they appear very different, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are all the same species of plant. The differences between these plants developed as a result of selective propagation using seeds of plants with more desirable qualities.
The ancient Greeks and Romans used it for medicinal purposes, as method of "sobering up" and as a remedy for a hangover. A 16th Century historian records, "The old Romans having expelled physicians out of their commonwealth, did for many years maintain their health by the use of cabbages, taking them for every disease."
During the first millennium A.D. most Europeans and Russian peasants devoured stewed or pickled cabbage during the cold winter months as it was one of the few staples available when the ground produced little else. The Chinese dried cabbage leaves for winter and re-hydrated them for soups.
In 1984, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations listed cabbage as one of the top twenty vegetables considered an important food source sustaining world population. Many countries of the world have incorporated cabbage as part of their national cuisine.
Depending on variety, cabbages can weigh between two and seven pounds, with a diameter of four to eight inches. Although there are approximately 400 varieties of cabbage varying in color, shape, and size, all are similar in nutritional components as well as structural properties.