red cabbage cumin


I get happy every time there’s purple cabbage in my weekly CSA farmshare. No disrespect for the ever-reliable green cabbage, but this variety’s color only means one thing to me: powerful plant compounds! For this week’s supply of purple cabbage I decided to ferment it, inspired by the El Salvadoran flavor of curtido, hence the addition of oregano.

Curtido is a spicy slaw, and it typically has sliced green chili pepper and red onion. Because I didn’t have this in my pantry at the time, I decided to just add cumin, which pairs well with oregano in Mexican recipes, which I love. 

Amazing anthocyanins

Dealing with a serious health issue during the first half of the year and choosing an integrative approach, I have become even more alert to how each food I eat can support my healing. And the purple cabbage, which in the past would sit on my kitchen counter longer than other leafy vegetables, has now gained superstar status. 

Responsible for the deep color are the plant pigments called anthocyanins. They are known to protect the plants from environmental stressors. So it makes sense that as antioxidants, they protect our cells from free radical damage wrought by such stressors as pollution, chronic stress, environmental toxins, etc. The buildup of free radicals has been linked to chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Anthocyanins have anti-cancer properties, and helps prevent cardiovascular diseases and lowers blood pressure. It’s also anti-diabetic and anti-obesity, among others.

Local sources of anthocyanins

Anthocyanins are the same compounds found in the superfood blueberries, which my nutrition protocol needed but, let’s admit it, these berries are hard to come by at the palengke (or even the supermarket) and cost a pretty penny here in the Philippines. 

Thankfully anthocyanins are found in local berries like bignay and duhat, both of which might be grown by your neighbor so it’s worth checking (I get mine from a friend’s neighbor), and the more accessible legumes like black beans and root crops like purple kamote and, of course, talbos ng kamote. (Check out our fermented talbos ng kamote drink and fermented red onions!)


  • 1 medium purple cabbage
  • Sea salt
  • Oregano
  • Cumin


1. Wash the red cabbage, slice in half and remove the outer leaves. Set these aside.

2. Using the pointed end of the knife remove the core of the two halves and set them aside as well.

3. Weigh shredded cabbage and multiply by 2%. This is the right amount of salt you will use. 

4. Slice the cabbage into shreds using a sharp knife or a mandoline.

5. Add salt and shredded cabbage into a bowl and firmly massage the cabbage. Use a pestle if needed to break down the cell walls of the red cabbage which may be tougher than the white variety.

6. Set aside for at least 30 minutes. This should result in a much-reduced volume of cabbage sitting in its own brine.

7. Add oregano and cumin according to preference. Start with half a teaspoon, taste and adjust. In this recipe we used 1 tsp each.

8. Massage the cabbage again to distribute the oregano and cumin evenly.

9. Stuff the cabbage into a jar, pressing everything down so that there are no air pockets and the brine rises. Cover the surface with the outer leaves and use the core to press everything down. 

10. Make sure to leave about an inch of headroom between the cabbage and the mouth of the jar. Seal. 

11. Set on the counter for a week or two, tasting daily. Burp daily if you are using a tight lid. Refrigerate as soon as you like the level of sourness.

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