A peculiar vegetable, native to the inhospitable Kerguelen Archipelago in the Southern Indian Ocean. The plant looks very similar to the European cabbage and is part of the same family, but has evolved to live on one of the most barren land-masses on earth. (It can also be found on the equally remote Heard Island and other sub-Antarctic island groups).

Due to the lack of any insect life on the islands, (due to extremely powerful winds and bad weather), the cabbage has evolved to be either self pollinating or pollinated by wind bourne pollen.
It was given it's latin name Pringlea antiscorbutica by William Anderson who was the surgeon aboard James Cook's expedition of 1776. Sir John Pringle, whom the cabbage is named after, (not the chip!), was the President of the Royal Society back in London at this time.

In 1907, Raymond Rallier Du Baty, a frenchman eager for adventure, sailed to Kerguelen and spent a couple of years there accumulating a supply of seal oil by which to make his fortune. He writes of his experiences with the Kerguelen Cabbage which he, like so many other sealers and whalers before him, had had the dubious pleasure of eating.

I must not forget to mention here a peculiar plant which we found on the lower ledges of the rocks among the narrow belts of coarse herbage. It is called the Kerguelen Cabbage, and has a tough, thick coat growing along the ground and then shooting up with a top of thick broad leaves. We gathered a good deal of this plant and made use of it in our cooking, because we had a great need of vegetable food to keep our blood pure. But the Kerguelen cabbage is not an ideal green-stuff. We had to boil it twice before we could eat it, for it has a most rank and bitter taste, very much like the most powerful horse-radish. In the first boiling the water becomes of a dark yellow colour, but in the second boiling it is fairly clear and the cabbage then becomes eatable. We made sauces with it, and chopped it up with our tinned meats for the stew-pot.

From '15,000 Miles in a Ketch' by Raymond Rallier Du Baty

It is, like it's European counterpart, extremely rich in Vitamin C and was, therefore, essential to earlier visitors to the island as a means to fend off scurvy. (This is, in fact, the meaning of the word Antiscorbutic, the latter half of the cabbages latin name.**) Surprisingly, despite Du Baty's warning as to its taste, the Kerguelen cabbage has been billed as one of the foods to be eating in the Australian continent*!


* See:http://www.anbg.gov.au/anbg/sub-antarctic/article3.html for information about other 'taste sensations Down Under'.
** Thank you to gn0sis for this piece of information.
See also:
http://www.btinternet.com/~sa_sa/kerguelen/kerguelen_cabbage.html for a picture of the cabbage, and:
http://www.newcrops.uq.edu.au/listing/pringleaantiscorbutica.htm for a list of publications which feature the bizarre vegetable.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.