Cabbage Is For More Than Just St. Patrick's Day


Country Mooncabbage

It’s almost the season for the corned beef and cabbage and green beer of St. Patrick’s Day. Every year when March 17th rolls around everyone becomes a little Irish. Cabbage is so nutrient-rich that it deserves a place on the table a few times a week throughout the year, not just on the Irish’s special day. A little more on that later.

First, I wanted to know just why cabbage was such a part of the Irish heritage. It seems that cabbage gained its fame in 17th century Ireland because many farmers and the rural poor relied on it for food during that time period. It grew well and was cheap to produce. During the great potato famine in 1845 the potato blight nearly wiped out this staple in the Irish diet. Many then turned to cabbage, eating an average of 65 pounds per person per year.

As many Irish immigrants began to hit American shores they brought their food preferences and recipes with them. A popular dish was colcannon, a dish made of boiled and mashed potatoes and cabbage.

Usually this time of year you don’t hear about cabbage without it being paired with corned beef. Although considered a traditional Irish dish, it was more like cabbage and bacon or ham in the beginning. It seems beef was not readily available in Ireland and was considered to be a luxury. Thus, the traditional Irish meal centered around ham and bacon. When the Irish got off the boats in America they located close to the Jewish communities. They had trouble finding bacon so they substituted corned beef which was very similar in texture.

It’s reported that the bars of New York of the early 20th century would offer free dinners of corned beef and cabbage to Irish workers who came in after laboring all day on building sites in the city. It was a win/win situation since the meal was relatively cheap and the workers would still have to buy drinks to get their free dinner.

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