Looking for an inexpensive, low calorie, nutrient-packed crunchy veggie to excite your taste buds? Look no further than cabbage. It comes in many varieties, ranging in color, size, shape and flavor, making it one of the most versatile vegetables.
Cabbage is a member of the Cruciferae family. That includes kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Experts think cabbage originated in Western Europe and domesticated nearly 2,000 years ago. These biennial plants are grown for their dense-leaved heads and range in color from green, red or white. Most varieties can be found year round at the grocery store.
All cabbage varieties prefer cooler growing temperatures between 55-75°F, fertile ground conditions when growing, and lots of sunlight. Once planted, they take anywhere from 70 to 120 days to reach maturity and are firm and solid to the touch.
Cabbage is a winter crop in warm-winter regions and a spring and fall crop in cold winter regions. Cabbages last anywhere from 3 weeks up to 2 months if stored properly in your refrigerator, wrapped in plastic. Plan to wash your cabbage right before you want to use it and not in advance.
Did you find a recipe that calls for cabbage?
There are so many varieties to choose from, all with endless possibilities in the kitchen. Which one to choose?
- The “king of cabbages” or most commonly found are smooth leafed, firm headed green cabbages ranging from one to nine pounds. Their leaves are a pale green color with a slightly rubbery texture. Before preparing, discard the outer few layers which are typically wilted. When shopping, look for heads that feel heavy for their size and avoid those with bruises or blemishes. This kitchen classic has a light, peppery flavor that becomes more subtle when cooked. Green cabbage can be eaten raw in a salad shaved or thinly sliced or lightly sautéed in soups or stir-fries.
- Red cabbage is like the sibling to green cabbage as it looks quite similar with the exception of its vibrant purple-red color. They tend to be a bit smaller than their green counterparts, but feel heavy for their size with tightly-packed leaves. Red cabbage is usually found thinly sliced in cole slaw or salads, but can be cooked, too—just keep in mind some of the magenta color will seep out when heated. To maintain the red color and minimize the odor when steaming or sautéing, try adding a dash of acid like lemon juice or vinegar to inhibit the activation of sulfur compounds being released.
- Napa cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage is an oblong oval shape with slightly frilly yellow-green leaves with thick, white stalks. It has a sweeter and milder taste than red or green cabbage and has more delicate tender leaves. Napa cabbage is a delicious addition to salads or stir fries and can be used to make kimchi or a filling for dumplings.
A serving of raw, chopped cabbage contains a mere 22 calories, 5 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber. This non-starchy vegetable packs a hefty nutritional punch containing Vitamin C and Vitamin K as well as folate and manganese. Due to its vibrant color, red cabbage contains additional Vitamin A to support eye health and iron than traditional green cabbage as well as additional antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Research shows that regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts or kale may protect individuals from certain types of cancer.
This Month’s Recipe: Unstuffed Egg Rolls
This recipe takes a classic egg roll and lightens it up a bit by eliminating the deep fried crust. Feel free to substitute ground beef or turkey for the sausage and add in any extra veggies you like, such as julienned zucchini, shredded carrot or chopped mushrooms. A fresh garnish of chopped scallions and a drizzle of sesame oil takes the dish to the next level.
Unstuffed Egg Rolls
- 1bag coleslaw mix
- 1lbpork sausage
- 2cloves garlic, minced
- 1tspground ginger
- 1/4cuponion, diced
- 1tspsalt to taste
- Brown the sausage in a large skillet and add the other ingredients right on top.
- Cover and cook on the stovetop about 5 minutes on medium heat.
- Remove lid, stir/toss and taste.
- Finish to your taste/texture preference.
Sarah Yandow, CHWC, is a wellness health coach with Employee Wellness and Employer Health Management at the University of Vermont Medical Center.