Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1.   [I’m now 80]  If anyone in the family got a gathering [inflammed swelling] occuring, mum would get a clean piece of cabbage leaf and bind it to the place required to bring it to a head.  I did this recently – using a brussel sprout leaf as the gathering was small.  South London [Lambeth Horticultural Society, November 2015].

2.  When I was really ill [with cancer] in about 2000-1 they gave me cabbage leaves to put in my bra [Whitstable, Kent, February 2011].

3. [Belfast] When my brother was born [c. 1930], he’s four year younger than me, I asked my father where I’d come from. He told me from under a cabbage [London, SE1, October 2010].

4. [From] relatives in the Newcastle-on-Clun area of Shropshire … a cabbage leaf placed over the breast for relief of mastitis [Sandiway, Cheshire, October 2004].

5. Cabbage – the outer leaves are wonderful for sprains and aches of any limbs. I use it on animals or myself [Llanbedr, Gwynedd, February 1998].

6. My daughter has just been recommended to put cabbage leaves in her bra to prevent/ameliorate sore nipples after childbirth! [Bognor Regis, West Sussex, March 1997].

7. My mother, b. 1900 in the East End of London, developed a painful abscess whilst breast-feeding. Urged by her doctor to have the abscess lanced, she chose instead a ‘gypsy’ remedy passed on by a friend. This involved simply covering the abscess overnight with clean cabbage leaves. Next day, the abscess had burst, subsequently healing with no scar, much to the amazement of the doctor [Harwich, Essex, September 1997].

8. Cabbage – kell – a kell bled (cabbage leaf) which is heated and placed on a septic wound is very effective in drawing out pus or a foreign body, e.g. splinter [Lerwick, Shetland, March 1994].

9. Cabbage plants, complete with roots, were thrown through open doors and down chimneys at Hallowe’en. This was usually accepted in good spirits, although some house-proud women may have regarded it in a different light [Lerwick, Shetland, March 1994].

Image:  Savoy cabbage, Borough Market, London Borough of Southwark; October 2015.