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Cabbage








The time has come, as the walrus said in Alice and the Looking
Glass, to talk of many things--

Of shoes, and ships, and sealing-wax; of Cabbages, and
kings.

The Cabbage, which is fabled to have sprung from the tears of the
Spartan lawgiver, Lycurgus, began as the Colewort, and was for
six hundred years, according to Pliny and Cato, the only internal
remedy used by the Romans. The Ionians had such a veneration
for Cabbages that they swore by them, just as the Egyptians did by
the onion. With ourselves, the wild Cabbage, growing on our
English sea cliffs, is the true Collet, or Colewort, from which have
sprung all our varieties of Cabbage--cauliflower, greens, broccoli,
etc. No vegetables were grown for the table in England before the
time of Henry the Eighth. In the thirteenth century it was the
custom to salt vegetables because they were so scarce; and in the
sixteenth century a Cabbage from Holland was deemed a choice
present.

The whole tribe of Cabbages is named botanically Brassicaceoe--
apo tou brassein--because they heat, or ferment.

By natural order they are cruciferous plants; and all contain much
nitrogen, or vegetable albumen, with a considerable quantity of
sulphur; hence they tend strongly to putrefaction, and when
decomposed their odour is very offensive. Being cut into pieces,
and pressed close in a tub with aromatic herbs and salt, so as to
undergo an acescent fermentation (which is [75] arrested at that
stage), Cabbages form the German Saurkraut, which is strongly
recommended against scurvy. The white Cabbage is most putrescible;
the red most emollient and pectoral. The juice of the red
cabbage made into syrup, without any condiments, is useful in
chronic coughs, and in bronchial asthma. The leaves of the
common white Cabbage, when gently bruised and applied to a
blistered surface, will promote a free discharge, as also when laid
next the skin in dropsy of the ankles. All the Coleworts are called
Crambe, from krambos, dry, because they dispel drunkenness.

There is, says an old author, a natural enmitie between the
Colewort and the vine, which is such that the vine, if growing near
unto it, withereth and perisheth; yea, if wine be poured into the
Colewort while it is boiling, it will not be any more boiled, and the
colour thereof will be quite altered. The generic term Colewort is
derived from caulis, a stalk, and wourte, as applied to all
kinds of herbs that do serve for the potte. Good worts,
exclaimed Falstaff, catching at Evans' faulty pronunciation of
words,--good worts,--good cabbages. An Irish cure for sore
throat is to tie Cabbage leaves round it; and the same remedy is
applied in England with hot Cabbage leaves for a swollen face. In
the Island of Jersey coarse Cabbages are grown abundantly on
patches of roadside ground, and in corners of fields, the stalks of
which attain the height of eight, ten, or more feet, and are used for
making walking sticks or cannes en tiges de choux. These are in
great demand on the island, and are largely exported. It may be
that a specially tall cabbage of this sort gave rise to the Fairy tale
of Jack and the bean stalk. The word Cabbage bears reference
[76] to caba (caput), a head, as signifying a Colewort which
forms a round head. Kohl rabi, from caulo-rapum, cabbage
turnip, is a name given to the Brassica oleracea. In 1595 the sum
of twenty shillings was paid for six Cabbages and a few carrots, at
the port of Hull, by the purveyor to the Clifford family.

The red Cabbage is thought in France to be highly anti-scorbutic;
and a syrup is made from it with this purpose in view. The juice of
white Cabbage leaves will cure warts.

The Brassica oleracea is one of the plants used in Count
Mattaei's vaunted nostrum, anti-scrofuloso. This, the sea
Cabbage, with its pale clusters of handsome yellow flowers, is
very ornamental to our cliffs. Its leaves, which are conspicuously
purple, have a bitter taste when uncooked, but become palatable
for boiling if first repeatedly washed; and they are sold at Dover as
a market vegetable. These should be boiled in two waters, of
which the first will be made laxative, and the second, or thicker
decoction, astringent, which fact was known to Hippocrates, who
said jus caulis solvit cujus substantia stringit.

Sir Anthony Ashley brought the Cabbage into English cultivation.
It is said a Cabbage is sculptured at his feet on his monument in
Wimbourne Minster, Dorset. He imported the Cabbage (Cale)
from Cadiz (Cales), where he held a command, and grew rich by
seizing other men's possessions, notably by appropriating some
jewels entrusted to his care by a lady. Hence he is said to have got
more by Cales (Cadiz) than by Cale (Cabbage); and this is,
perhaps, the origin of our term to cabbage. Among tailors, this
phrase to cabbage is a cant saying which means to filch the cloth
when cutting out for a customer. Arbuthnot writes Your [77]
tailor, instead of shreds, cabbages whole yards of cloth. Perhaps
the word comes from the French cabasser, to put into a basket.

From the seed of the wild Cabbage (Rape, or Navew) rape-seed oil
is extracted, and the residue is called rape-cake, or oil-cake.

Some years ago it was customary to bake bread-rolls wrapped in
Cabbage leaves, for imparting what was considered an agreeable
flavour. John Evelyn said: In general, Cabbages are thought to
allay fumes, and to prevent intoxication; but some will have them
noxious to the sight. After all it must be confessed the Cabbage is
greatly to be accused for lying undigested in the stomach, and for
provoking eructations; which makes one wonder at the veneration
the ancients had for it, calling the tribe divine, and swearing per
brassicam, which was for six hundred years held by the Romans
a panacea: though Dis crambee thanatos--Death by twice
Cabbage--was a Greek proverb. Gerard says the Greeks called
the Cabbage Amethustos, not only because it driveth away
drunkennesse; but also for that it is like in colour to the pretious
stone called the amethyst. The Cabbage was Pompey's best
beloved dish. To make a winter salad it is customary in America to
choose a firm white Cabbage, and to shred it very fine, serving it
with a dressing of plain oil and vinegar. This goes by the name of
slaw, which has a Dutch origin.

The free presence of hydrogen and sulphur causes a very strong
and unpleasant smell to pervade the house during the cooking of
Cabbages. Nevertheless, this sulphur is a very salutary constituent
of the vegetable, most useful in scurvy and scrofula. Partridge and
Cabbage suit the patrician table; bacon and Cabbage [78] better
please the taste and the requirements of the proletarian. The
nitrogen of this and other cruciferous plants serves to make them
emit offensive stinks when they lie out of doors and rot.

For the purulent scrofulous ophthalmic inflammation of infants, by
cleansing the eyes thoroughly every half-hour with warm water,
and then packing the sockets each time with fresh Cabbage leaves
cleaned and bruised to a soft pulp, the flow of matter will be
increased for a few days, but a cure will be soon effected. Pliny
commended the juice of the raw Cabbage with a little honey for
sore and inflamed eyes which were moist and weeping, but not for
those which were dry and dull.

In Kent and Sussex, when a Cabbage is cut and the stalk left in the
ground to produce greens for the table, a cottager will carve an x
on the top flat surface of the upright stalk, and thus protect it
against mischievous garden sprites and demons.

Some half a century ago medical apprentices were taught the art of
blood-letting by practising with a lancet on the prominent veins of
a Cabbage leaf.

Carlyle said of all plants the Cabbage grows fastest to
completion. His parable of the oak and the Cabbage conveys the
lesson that those things which are most richly endowed when they
come to perfection, are the slowest in their production and
development.





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