They’ve existed since the 16th century and found their way through Europe and across the channel to the British Islands in their native Belgium. Their bigger relatives, broccoli and cabbage, had grown wild and are thought to have been domesticated centuries before from the Celts, presumably before 1000 B.C. Though the Romans are often given credit for introducing this vegetable for their European allies, the humble cabbage looks in food histories and is usually attributed to the Celts, as their armies invaded the Mediterranean areas, where the Romans embraced it (but they most certainly did not embrace the Celtic armies). It became a favorite food, as it was simple and cheap to grow and could be dropped into a pot of boiling water and eaten plain or in a soup or stew. No blue-blooded Irishman would observe St. Patrick’s Day without a plate of corned beef and cabbage.
Throughout history, conquering armies have taken their favorite foods into other countries and, based upon the climates and growing conditions, cabbage took on various colors and appearances. Irrespective of who gets the nod for detecting this popular vegetable, it had been widely accepted in Europe and often fermented and chopped. (Once again, explorer Marco Polo missing out detecting cabbage in his travels but maybe ate it in his native Italy.)
Cabbage made its appearance in the usa around 1700 and was likely grown and eaten by the colonists, in addition to some Native Americans. Centuries before, cut and initially eaten with vinaigrette, the Dutch took coleslaw into a new (and less healthy) amount with the addition of egg, some sort of milk and fat, normally in the shape of our mayonnaise. This version was referenced in American literature as far back as 1785. Since it was highly perishable and cluttered, it certainly was not packed to the bags of army soldiers or cowboys, but it has thrived as a favorite side dish with all-American sandwiches, hot dogs and burgers, and a favorite salad with barbeque and fried chicken.
When the wildly popular fast food restaurant that specializes in poultry removed it from their menu, there was a nationwide uproar (including from this author). They replaced it using a spinach salad, but that just did not cut it for coleslaw lovers, which attests to its popularity.
And talking of shredded cabbage, the Germans, Czechs and Polish have their cherished fermented sauerkraut, which is generally served as a hot vegetable. Jewish delis
Serve it cold as a side for a significant filling in Reuben sandwiches.
Where does this leave our Brussels sprouts? More than 90 percent of the U.S. source of those miniature cabbages are grown in the cool climate of San Francisco and
Agricultural regions just south of the Bay. Production started in the Louisiana delta and finally found its way into the West Coast where the developing climate was more favorable.
Though they are a popular item on holiday tables, this author advises that you follow recipes from leading chefs to ensue they turn out tasty, company and well-seasoned. And incidentally, Brussels sprouts top the list as the most hated vegetable in the U.S. and consistently make the top five record globally. So for those people in that camp, they’ll be absent from the family dinner table. Bon appetit.