Despite its impressive nutrient content, cabbage is often overlooked.
While it may look a lot like lettuce, it actually belongs to the Brassica genus of vegetables, which includes broccoli, cauliflower and kale.
There are over 400 different varieties of cabbage grown throughout the world, from round to conical in shape; with flat or curly, tight, or loose leaves; and in green, white, red, and purple colors. Out of the hundreds of varieties, however, only a few make their way to the Canadian grocery store produce section, those being the green, red (or purple), Savoy, and Napa cabbage varieties.
Looking similar to a head of iceberg lettuce, green cabbage is the most common variety. The outer leaves range from dark to pale green while the inside is pale green or white. When raw, its texture is somewhat rubbery and its flavor kind of peppery but once cooked, the green cabbage softens and takes on a sweeter taste. You want to choose heads that are heavy in the hand and with tightly bound leaves. Before using, discard the outer wilted leaves.
Green cabbage can be eaten raw when sliced thinly as in coleslaw, or it can be added to stir-fries, casseroles or soups. Of course, this is the cabbage we are all familiar with when it comes to cabbage rolls.
Red or Purple Cabbage
Red or purple cabbages take longer to mature, so these types are generally not as tender as green or white varieties. Most often, pickled raw shredded red cabbage makes a striking addition to coleslaw and traditional salads. Red cabbage can be used interchangeably in most standard cabbage recipes, but be aware that the color will leach into any other ingredients.
Savoy cabbage, originating in Italy, has deep green crinkly leaves and is considered the most tender and sweet. The head is less compact, due to the wrinkled leaves, but looks similar to green cabbage. It is the better choice for stuffed cabbage since the leaves are more pliable and stand up to longer cooking times, but is also great raw in coleslaw.
Called Chinese cabbage (although its name comes from the Japanese word “nappa”), this yellow-green, oblong head has frilly leaves and crisp, thick stems. One of the milder flavored cabbages, Napa can be eaten raw or cooked and is softer and sweeter than the other varieties.
Choosing Cabbage – Look for brightly colored leaves with crisp, moist looking edges, fresh looking cut ends without browning and heads that feel heavy for their size. Any yellowing leaves, bruised leaves, or mushiness (or even potential mushiness) anywhere? Leave it at the market.
Storing Cabbage – Head cabbages (green, red, Savoy) are storage vegetables that last a remarkably long time on the stalk before they are harvested. Once harvested, keep them well chilled, loosely wrapped in plastic, and they will last up to two weeks.
Preparing Cabbage – Instead of washing head cabbage, you can just remove and discard the first layer of tougher, dirty leaves. Bunched cabbage, like Napa, can be chopped or have their leaves separates and then rinsed clean. Cut out and discard the tough core of the head cabbage. The easiest way to do this is to halve or quarter the cabbage first and then cut out the core. Chop or slice the leaves as you like.
Quick Pickled Cabbage
- ½ red cabbage shredded
- 1¼ cups water
- 1¼ cups apple cider vinegar
- 1½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes optional
- 2 cloves garlic sliced
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 12 black peppercorns
- Put the water in a saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vinegar, salt, and sugar. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, if using.
- Put the shredded red cabbage in a bowl and then pour the hot brine over it.
- Divide the brined cabbage between 2 (1-pint) jars, layering evenly with the garlic slices, coriander seeds, and peppercorns.
- Place the lids on the jars and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
Roasted Cabbage Steak
- 2 small green cabbage
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2 tsp paprika optional
- 1 tbsp garlic powder optional
- Cut the stems off the cabbage heads and then cut each one in half, then in half again. You should have four flat discs of cabbage that are about ¾ to 1 inch thick from each head. Place the cabbage steaks on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper, allowing some space between each one to even cooking.
- Brush the cabbage with the olive oil, coating them thoroughly. Then generously sprinkle the salt and pepper (garlic powder, and paprika if using) on the cabbage steaks. Flip the cabbage over and repeat, brushing them with oil and sprinkling the seasonings.
- Bake the cabbage steaks at 400°F for about 25 minutes, (flipping halfway) until the leaves are browned and the center is tender. Serve hot out of the oven.
Delicious Easy Coleslaw
- 6 cups green cabbage thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot grated
- ¼ cup sweet or green onion minced
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tsp mustard
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp celery seeds
- 1/2 tsp dill
- salt and pepper to taste
- In large bowl combine dressing ingredients: mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sugar, celery seeds, dill, salt and pepper to taste. Stir until everything is combined well and taste for additional seasonings.
- Stir in cabbage and carrots. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours for the slaw to absorb the dressing and soften a bit. The longer the cabbage sits in the dressing, the softer and creamier it will become.