Make cabbage great again
This often-overlooked leafy green is nutritious and can be delicious.
Story By Bailey Gilliam
Cabbage is often overlooked as a regular in our day-to-day cuisine due to some unfortunate stereotyping. It’s time to bring cabbage into the spotlight. Cabbage isn’t just for the poor – yes, we’ve all watched that scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where Charlie Bucket is sick of having “cabbage water” for every meal. But do you know why less fortunate people ate cabbage? It’s cheap and nutritious. It’s a common misconception that cabbage is like lettuce: a water-logged leaf with no nutritional value. While it’s true that lettuce has virtually no health benefits, cabbage, on the other hand, is full of nutrients; it isn’t related to lettuce at all but, rather, the Brassica genus of vegetables, which includes broccoli, radishes and Brussels sprouts. We all know those are of the utmost importance in the food pyramid. Whether you don’t like the taste of cabbage, assume it’s pointless to eat or just don’t know much about it, we’ve got you covered with this guide to all things cabbage.
An unclear history
Cabbage goes down in history as being a commoner’s food, but the origins are a bit hazy. The most common theory is that cabbages were domesticated in Europe roughly 3,000 years ago from wild predecessors with thick leaves that retained water, allowing them to survive in colder places with less water. Some myths grew about cabbage along the way too. Eating cabbage was believed to enable one to avoid drunkenness. (Maybe cabbage should be a Bloody Mary garnish?) During the 17th and 18th centuries, cabbage was a food staple in countries like Germany, England, Ireland and Russia, and pickled cabbage was popular. Dutch, Scandinavian and German sailors used sauerkraut to prevent scurvy during long ship voyages. They even used it to treat wounds and prevent gangrene.
So which of these health benefits are true?
Obviously cabbage doesn’t treat gangrene or scurvy. But cabbage is loaded with health benefits. It is low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It has high amounts of vitamins C and K and is a good source of fiber. Cabbage supports healthy digestion, improves heart health, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels and decreases inflammation. For the most bang for your buck, avoid long cooking methods or boiling, and opt for quick stir-fries or fresh salads and slaws. Fermented cabbages, meanwhile, like sauerkraut or kimchi, develop healthful probiotics.
Be a cabbage patch kid
Cabbage is a cool-season vegetable suited to both spring and fall. Choose a planting site with full sun (6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily) and well-draining soil. For the best results, mix aged manure and compost into your soil. For a summer harvest, start seeds indoors, sowing about 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. For a fall harvest, directly sow seeds outdoors, or plant transplants in late summer. Ensure young plants don’t dry out in the summer sun’s heat. Sow seeds 1/4-inch deep and 1-2 feet apart in rows. The less space between them, the smaller the heads will be. Mulch thickly around your plants to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature. Harvest when the heads reach a desired size and are firm, or around 70 days after planting.
Store whole heads of cabbage in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer for about a month. Sometimes green or red cabbages can last six weeks. Savoy cabbages are a little less durable but still remain fresh for a few weeks. For best results leave the heads whole, and don’t wash or cut them until you’re ready to prep.
Types of cabbage
There are four main types of cabbage: green, red (or purple), Savoy and Napa. Red cabbage is a smooth-leaved, dense cabbage that’s naturally crunchy, perfect for raw salads, slow braises and quick stir-fries. It has more iron and vitamin A than its green relatives. Green cabbage is also smooth-leaved and crunchy. It is the most readily available in grocery stores. It is excellent cooked or raw. Napa cabbage, or Chinese cabbage, is oblong and has light green, crinkly leaves and a white stem. It is used mainly in Asian cuisines. Savoy cabbage is more delicate in flavor and has ruffled, curly leaves and a less densely packed head.
These homemade cabbage rolls are flavorful and filling. With meat, rice, sauce and cabbage, you can enjoy the flavors of Poland without making the trip.
1 head green cabbage
1 cup uncooked rice
1 pound ground pork or turkey
1/2 pound ground beef
2 small onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups + 3 cups tomato sauce, divided
1 can tomato soup
 Boil cabbage leaves for about 2 minutes or until soft. Set aside to cool, and heat oven to 350.  Cook rice according to package directions but reduce cooking time by 5 minutes so the rice is slightly underdone. Set aside.  Cook pork, beef, onions, garlic and seasonings in a pan until no pink remains. Drain any fat. Add in rice, diced tomatoes and 1/3 cup of tomato sauce. Stir in egg.  Mix the remaining tomato sauce and tomato soup in a bowl. Spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce mixture in a 9×13 pan.  Remove any thick stems on cabbage leaves. Lay the cabbage leaf flat and add 1/4 to 1/3 cup of filling to the center of the leaf. Fold in the sides and roll the cabbage up. Place seam side down in the pan. Repeat with remaining cabbage.  Pour sauce over the cabbage and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 75-90 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
This colorful and creamy coleslaw is the best salad or sandwich topper. It’s the perfect make-ahead dish, ideal for any occasion.
3 cups green cabbage, finely shredded
2 cups purple cabbage, finely shredded
1 cup carrot, finely shredded
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
 Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl.  Toss with cabbage and carrots. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving to allow flavors to blend.