The cabbage, or mustard, family contains a diverse selection of earthy vegetables. All are nutritious and most are delicious eaten either raw or cooked. The leaves can be shredded, sauteed, stir-fried, or used as a platform for vegetables and meats, poultry, and fish. Coleslaw, cabbage rolls, and corned beef and cabbage are traditional favorites.
Cabbages are sold either as “fresh” or “storage” produce. Color variations will range from white to green to red.
- Green/Red cabbage: Similar in taste, although the red is more mature with a stronger flavor and tougher leaves. The red is most often selected to add color to dishes, but when cooked the red will turn to purple and will leach into neighboring foods.
- Savoy: Another large, round-headed variety. Most highly recommended for cooking with a sweet flavor.
- Napa: Identified for its elongated, loose leaves. An excellent salad cabbage, but also good steamed or stir-fried. Use in coleslaw for a milder taste.
- Bok choy: Called Chinese cabbage, but actually a subspecies of the Chinese group. Use leaves in salads and slice or chop the stalks for stir-fries. Baby bok choy are extra tender.
- Kohlrabi: The alternate name, cabbage turnip, best describes its shape. The meaty portion should be peeled before using. If leaves are attached, use them also.
- Brussels sprouts: Tiny and tasty; they’re named for their native Brussels, Belgium.
- Floret heads: Broccoli and cauliflower are also classified as members of the cabbage family. These are treated differently from the leafed varieties, but contain the same nutrients and antioxidants.
- Fresh cabbage is heavy with a firm head. Leaves should be free of disfiguring cuts and other marks.
- Packages of pre-shredded cabbage may be convenient, but many of the nutrients dissipate soon after cutting.
- Refrigerate firm heads in a plastic bag and it should keep for 1-2 weeks. Brussels sprouts and loose, leafy cabbages will keep for about 3-4 days.
- To prevent major nutrient loss, once part of a head has been used, wrap well and use the remainder within a day or so.