Irish vegetables have been seriously undervalued during the boom years, and none more so than the staple crops that have stood by us so well down through the centuries – everyday foods like carrots, leeks and cabbage.
They suit the climate and our traditional dishes, and are available locally and inexpensively over a long season; yet we so often favour ‘exotic’ imports over these simple but nourishing and versatile foods.
Take the humble cabbage (Brassica oleracea), for example. This leafy green/purple member of the mustard family is grown in so many varieties that there is a choice of ‘styles’ available throughout the year – ranging from tightly packed heads (green/yellow, red, crinkly) to loose-leafed kinds including ‘spring greens’ and numerous cousins such as brussels sprouts and sprouting broccoli.
The brassica family is known to have many important health benefits (mineral rich, green leafy vegetables are linked to everything from boosting the immune system – including preventing cancer - to improving memory) yet too many of us seem reluctant to ‘eat our greens’.
Until recent decades Spring cabbage was a widely welcomed crop, being the first leafy green vegetable available after a long winter dominated by root vegetables and the hard ‘keeping’ cabbages. And the fresh new season leaves are still a treat, even if the range of other vegetables, whether imported or grown under protection, has undermined its special position in the cook’s calendar.
Cooked lightly to retain the fresh colour and flavour, spring cabbage is a very versatile side vegetable and goes well with any roast or grilled meat, most hearty casserole dishes, some smoked fish, and vegetarian dishes such as omelettes or cheese & vegetable bakes too.
Smoked Fish with Mustard and Cabbage
A simple, nourishing midweek meal.
Click for recipe