The leaves of the white and red cabbage are usually smooth and shiny with prominent veins. The leaves of the Savoy cabbage are light green and crinkled.
Cooked right these cabbages can be crisp with a mild and sweet flavor.
Round-headed cabbage can be found in most farm markets most of the year, but particularly during the cool and cold fall and winter months.
There are more than 400 varieties of cabbage. Not all of them are round headed.
White round-headed cabbage has pale green leaves. It is eaten raw in salads, cooked as a hot vegetable, and pickled as sauerkraut. This is the most popular cabbage in the United States.
Red cabbage has reddish-purple leaves and can be eaten raw or cooked. Red cabbage recipes often include acid fruit, vinegar, lemon, or wine. This is the most popular cabbage in Germany and Eastern Europe.
Savoy cabbage is also called curly cabbage. Its soft, crinkled leaves vary from pale to dark green. This cabbage is named for the region where it is believed to have originated: the Savoy which straddles the Alpine regions of Italy and France.
Savoy cabbage can have a loose, slightly cone-shaped head. It is the most tender and mellow flavored of the round-headed cabbages and requires the least amount of cooking.
Other popular cabbages are green cabbage, sometimes called spring cabbage, which has a loose head and a pale yellow-green heart, and Chinese cabbage, also called Napa cabbage which does not belong to the same species as the round-headed cabbages.
Choose. Select cabbage that is heavy for its size and is compact; with shiny, crisp, well-colored leaves. Cabbage heads should be firmly packed and be unblemished and free of cracks.
Avoid cabbage with yellowed leaves, a strong smell, or a woody, split core. Avoid Savoy cabbage that has thin, wilted leaves or a cracked head.
Cabbage leaves will be the darkest on the outside of the head. As cabbage ages, the outer leaves are pulled off and lighter leaves are revealed. The color of a cabbage’s leaves can indicate the age of the cabbage.
Prepare. Soak cabbage in salt water or vinegar for about 15 minutes before using to free the tightly packed leaves of insects. Thin rinse the head thoroughly in cold running water.
Remove the core before cooking or shredding the cabbage. First, remove the first few layers of leaves. Then use a thin bladed knife to cut a cone shaped section out of the core.
If you want shredded cabbage, cut the head into quarters and then cross-cut thinly.
For the mildest flavor and tenderness, cut out and discard the fibrous thick ribs from the outer leaves.
Store. Cabbage will keep for about 2 weeks in the vegetable drawer or in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Cut cabbage should be stored away from other foods.
Cabbage can be frozen after being blanched: 1 minute for shredded cabbage; 2 minutes for cabbage cut into wedges.
Serve. Cabbage can be eaten raw or cooked.
Raw cabbage can be sliced, shredded or chopped to be used in salads or to make coleslaw.
Cooked cabbage can be steamed, braised, sautéed, or stuffed. It can be added to soups, stews, stir-fries, and stuffings.
Flavor partners. White cabbage has a flavor affinity for bacon, butter, caraway, carrots, game birds such as pheasant or goose, juniper berry, onions, potatoes, and sausage.
Red cabbage has a flavor affinity for apples, red wine, and vinegar.
Savoy cabbage has a flavor affinity for garlic, olive oil, polenta, potatoes, sweet onions, and white beans.
Nutrition. Raw cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C and folic acid, good source of potassium. Cooked cabbage is a good source of vitamin C and potassium and contains folic acid.
Cabbage facts and trivia. The cabbage family is large and includes kale, broccoli, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, sea kale, and kohlrabi.
Cabbage has been used as a food for more than 3,000 years. It was eaten in ancient Egypt. Several varieties loose-leafed varieties were developed by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
The earliest headed cabbage appeared in Northern Europe 2,000 years ago where its ability to withstand cold temperatures aided in the spread of its cultivation. The word cabbage is a derivation of the French word caboche which is colloquial for “head”.
A headed cabbage is actually an elongated terminal bud. A cabbage head can weigh between 2 and 7 pounds (.9 to 3 kg) and have a diameter between 4 and 8 inches (10-20 cm).
The largest producers of cabbage are Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, and Poland.
The botanical name of cabbage is Brassica oleracea var. capitata.