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


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 Ro
ans. 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


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