They’ve been around since the 16th century and found their way through Europe and across the channel to the British Islands in their native Belgium. Their larger relatives, cabbage and kale, had originally grown wild and are thought to have been domesticated centuries before by the Celts, presumably before 1000 B.C. Although the Romans are often given credit for introducing this vegetable for their European allies, the humble cabbage appears in food histories and is generally 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 popular 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 celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without a plate of corned beef and cabbage.
Throughout history, conquering armies have frequently taken their popular foods into other countries and, depending on the climates and growing conditions, cabbage took on different colors and appearances. Regardless of who gets the nod for detecting this popular vegetable, it had been widely accepted in Europe and frequently fermented and chopped. (Once again, explorer Marco Polo missing out detecting cabbage in his travels but possibly ate it in his native Italy.)
Cabbage made its appearance in the usa around 1700 and was probably grown and eaten by the colonists, as well as some Native Americans. Centuries before, cut and originally eaten with vinaigrette, the Dutch took coleslaw into a new (and less healthy) level with the addition of egg, some sort of fat and dairy, usually in the form of our mayonnaise. This version has been referenced in American literature as far back as 1785. Since it was highly perishable and cluttered, it certainly wasn’t packed to the bags of military soldiers or cowboys, but it has thrived as a popular side dish with all-American sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers, and a popular 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 all have their beloved fermented sauerkraut, which is usually served as a hot vegetable. Jewish delis
Serve it cold as a side for a significant filling in Reuben sandwiches.
So where does this leave our Brussels sprouts? Over 90 percent of the U.S. supply of those miniature cabbages are grown in the cool climate of San Francisco and
Agricultural areas just south of the Bay. Production began in the Louisiana delta and eventually found its way to the West Coast where the developing climate was more favorable.
Although they are a popular item on holiday tables, this author advises that you follow recipes from top chefs to ensue they turn out tasty, company and well-seasoned. And by the way, Brussels sprouts top the list as the most hated vegetable in the U.S. and always make the top five record worldwide. So for those people in that camp, they will be absent from the family dinner table. Bon appetit.