For such a humble vegetable, cabbage has a long history. It has been considered a valuable nutrient source for thousands of years, serving as a primary staple for many early Asian cultures. Considered the grandfather of the cruciferous vegetable family, it shares many of the health-enhancing qualities found in its close cousins -broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, radishes, collards and kale to name a few.
The most common types of cabbage include:
Red Cabbage. The most flavorful of the group, red cabbage not only offers a splash of color to any plate, it also serves up nearly twice as much Vitamin C per serving as the more traditional green cabbage.
Green Cabbage. Green cabbage makes for an ideal low-cost, low-cal addition to any meal. It is an incredibly versatile vegetable, lending itself well to everything from salads to soups to sautees.
Bok Choy. Long been used in Asian cooking, bok choy has started to make a name for itself in the western world as well. Looking more like a leafy green but with a hint of cabbage flavor, it makes for a great addition to any stir-fry or soup.
Savoy Cabbage. Savoy cabbage is easily recognized by its distinct ruffled green leaves. It is a more delicate cabbage both in texture and flavor, often sliced into thin ribbons and added to salads.
WHERE TO FIND IT
Although cabbage can be found year-round, it tends to be at its best during the fall and early winter months. The colder weather and occasional frost helps seal in the flavor and maintain a crisp texture.
Conventionally-grown red and green cabbage are long-standing regulars in most grocery stores. As the organic movement picks up traction, organic red & green cabbages are becoming easier to find in the larger chains like Safeway and Trader Joe’s.
Bok choy and Savoy cabbage are less of a rarity in the big stores than they once were but can still be painfully absent at times. Asian markets and natural grocers are a better bet, generally offering a broader selection of fresh cabbage.
HOW TO SELECT IT
The first question to ask when selecting a cabbage is “does it feel heavier than I would expect it to?” If the answer is yes, you may have a keeper. Look at the leaves to be sure that they are firm, crisp and still attached to stem. If they are in anyway wilted or bruised, opt for another.
In the case of cabbages (with the possible exception of bok choy), going with the conventionally-grown is NOT a deal breaker. To avoid the possibility of consuming left-behind pesticides, simply remove the outer leaves – being sure to get rid of any that may have been exposed to spray.
HOW TO STORE IT
Cabbage is one of those super user-friendly vegetables, able to stand up to a few days forgotten in the back of the fridge. If stored properly, it has a fridge life of 7-10 days (2 weeks if you REALLY push it). When you bring it home, wrap it up tightly in a plastic bag and store in the fridge crisper. Avoid cutting your cabbage until you are ready to eat it. Once the cabbage is cut, it quickly starts to lose its nutritional value.
In addition to being rich in immunity-boosting Vitamin C, cabbage has recently gotten attention for its high levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants. Recent studies have linked the phytonutrients in cabbage with reduced rates of certain cancers including breast and prostate cancers. And with its high fiber levels, cabbage also helps support a healthy digestive system.