Cabbage is so versatile and commonplace that it is eaten in almost every country around the world. Fermented cabbage dishes are a widespread form of food preparation and have nourished humanity for centuries. Although we think of cabbages as being relatively head-sized and weighing a couple of pounds, the heaviest cabbage on record weighed 62.71 kilograms or 138.25 pounds.
There are 5 varieties of cabbage within the Brassica oleracea species: Savoy, Spring Blue, Blue, Red/Purple, and White/Dutch. Chinese cabbage (also called napa or celery cabbage is part of the Brassica rapa and is more closely related to turnips, bok choy, and broccoli raab.
Cabbage is approximately 90% water and is a great source of many nutrients. Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C and K, and a good source of folate and vitamin B6. Purple/Red cabbage has more vitamin C, while Savoy cabbage has more vitamin A, calcium, iron, and potassium. Cabbage is considered a beneficial digestive aid and intestinal cleanser, however, if eaten in excessive amounts, it can lead to bloating and intestinal gas. Cooking with Laura
Buying & Storing
When shopping for cabbage, check to make sure there isn’t major damage or any significant blemishes or brown/soft patches on the head. Also, check for cabbages that are heavy for their size and feel solid. If you’re buying from a farmers market, ask your farmers for cabbage “seconds’ – produce that has slight damage but tastes just fine, and is often sold at a discount. If buying damaged or insect nibbled cabbage, keep in mind that it will not last as long, and should probably be broken down fairly soon after purchase.
Cabbage can be stored for quite a long time when done properly. Refrigerate cabbage in your hydrator/crisper drawer. Do not remove outer leaves before storage. A plastic bag will help retain moisture, but is not necessary if you have a crisper drawer and you leave the outer leaves on. If the outer leaves have already been removed, place it in a plastic bag to increase the storage life. Properly stored cabbage can last 3 weeks to 2 months in the refrigerator.
Preparation – pull off the outer leaves and rinse the head of cabbage under cool water. Cut the cabbage in half from top to bottom and then in half again (to get quarters). Use your knife to de-core the cabbage, thereby removing the stiff base and center stem of the cabbage that looks different from the compact layers of the head. Once de-cored, the cabbage quarters can be sliced into thin ribbons, inch-wide strips, chunks, cut into thin wedges, or left as is. It all depends on what you’re doing with your cabbage.
Raw – cut cabbage heads into halves or quarters, de-core, and thinly slice cabbage for use in slaws, salads, pasta salads, or on top of tacos for a delicious crunch. All varieties of cabbage go great with green onion, carrots, daikon, jicama, and beets (all raw). Mix several varieties of cabbage together for a really delicious salad or slaw, or peel the leaves off and use as cups for rice dishes, taco shells, etc.
Grill – cut wedges of cabbage, but do not de-core. Drizzle the wedges with olive oil, salt and pepper, and grill until tender over a cooler section of the grill until browned and tender.
Roast – cut wedges of cabbage, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 400 until browned and tender. You can also cut cabbage into large chunks and roast the chunks, stirring after about 5 minutes.
Sauté – cut strips of cabbage and toss in a sauté pan with other veggies for a delicious stir-fry or fried rice.
Boil – cut cabbage into quarters, then cut into large chunks. Boil in salted water with a chopped onion for 5 minutes, strain, and add to mashed potatoes, mashed parsnips, or soup.
Ferment/Pickle – ferment cabbage in a vinegar or salt brine to make homemade sauerkraut or kimchi.