In the Italian language, it is used in many idioms and sayings and certainly not in a flattering way: when Italians mention the word “cavolo” (i.e. cabbage) they always mean something of little value or something that was not supposed to happen. Contrary to popular belief and to its easy availability, it is a very important food due to its nutritional benefits, in particular the black cabbage.
This variety (Brassica oleracea) has been present in Europe since 600 B.C, when it was imported from Asia Minor. It is also known as Tuscan cabbage because it was grown in this region and is the main ingredient in many typical dishes, such as the famous “ribollita”, a traditional Tuscan soup made of vegetables and bread.
The black cabbage plant is easy to cultivate and can be found at almost any time of the year. Unlike other products of the cabbage family, it is not round, but has a more elongated shape. It has long, wrinkled leaves and a very hard inner part that is not eaten.
From a nutritional point of view, it is perfect for low calorie diets as it is composed mostly of water and fibre, with a percentage of carbohydrates and proteins, as well as many minerals and vitamins. In particular, black cabbage contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, sulphur, selenium and fluoride. It also contains vitamin A, some B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6), vitamin C (a few leaves have more vitamin C than one whole orange!) and especially vitamin K, a vitamin essential for blood clotting and for our diet.
All the so-called superfoods have beneficial properties on human health, and black cabbage is no exception. Several international studies carried out on this vegetable have shown that it has excellent antioxidant properties which can prevent certain types of cancer. In addition, an Italian study published a few years ago in the CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics journal found that black cabbage has protective effects against a serious disease such as multiple sclerosis.
Black cabbage is usually eaten cooked, or in soups, but prolonged cooking is said to decrease its antioxidant properties. Therefore, it is better to cook it quickly or to eat it raw, blended into a smoothie for a quick snack!