Cabbage is a pretty noncontroversial vegetable. Most of the time it’s in the background of a favorite dish supporting fancier flavors. Coleslaw, sauerkraut, soups, salads—there are so many ways to enjoy cabbage—but no one is just waiting around for cabbage season. Why is that?
Cabbage is one of the oldest vegetables in existence, giving the world plenty of time to develop flavorful recipes. Ancient texts and depictions tell us that cabbage was widely consumed around the world and was a staple in many households through to modern times due to its inexpensiveness. Many popular dishes even use cabbage to celebrate cultural events, such as the popular St. Patrick’s day meal of corned beef and cabbage.
Cabbage has gotten a rebirth in popularity in the past several years with many chefs adding it to their menus. They use it as a topping for tacos, a base for fish, and sometimes even puree it for a garnish. One reason cabbage is appealing to chef’s is that it is sturdier than most other greens. Chef’s can also use cabbage to add color to their dishes. Not only does cabbage grow in the traditional green color, it is also available in red, purple, or yellow-white.
Plus, there’s a health benefit to cabbage. One cup of cabbage is only 15 calories, and provides many vitamins and minerals, including but not limited to vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and potassium. Cabbage is known to improve digestion since it’s high in fiber and has a high water content, and if you eat it fermented you can benefit from probiotics too.
From the agricultural side of things, cabbage is fairly easy to grow. The crop prefers cool and mild temperatures, which is why cabbage can grow in both spring and fall. Cabbage belongs to the brassica family, which also includes Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale. The harvest for this vegetable comes anywhere from 2-5 months after seeding and harvested when the heads are large and firm. Cabbage consumers should look for a firm and tight head without any black or soft spots. It’s okay to choose a cabbage with wilted or slightly discolored outside leaves because you will discard those before use anyway.
And don’t shy away from large heads of cabbage when you’re shopping the farmers’ market. Whatever you don’t use you can freeze for a later meal. Simply remove the outside leaves and wash or soak in cold water for 30 minutes then pat dry. Slice the cabbage in thick slices or wedges, or freeze the leaves. Blanch the cabbage for 1-3 minutes, then cool in an ice bath. Shake off the extra water and flash freeze on a baking sheet before storing in a freezer bag. When you’re ready to use your cabbage, just add to your favorite soup or stew without defrosting.
More than just a source of nutrients, cabbage has become part of society. Legends of babies coming from cabbage patches have been told to children throughout the ages and inspired the famous cabbage patch kids dolls, which were created in 1978 and are still sold today. Babe Ruth wore a cabbage leaf under his baseball cap during games, not as a fashion accessory, but rather to keep himself cool. Some people pull out the cabbage on New Year’s Day for good fortune in the coming year. In Irish folklore, cabbage is even used to predict characteristics of a future spouse. The girls would pull the first cabbage they could find and the taste would reveal whether their spouse would be sweet or sour.
Despite whether or not you believe in the magical powers of cabbage, take a look at the recipes below before you head to the farmers’ market this fall.
Crunchy Winter Salad
Countryside Original Recipe
1 head of cabbage
3 cups, roughly chopped of tatsoi
4 small, thinly sliced radishes
¾ cup olive oil
3 Tbsp honey
¼ apple cider vinegar
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 Tbsp water
Cut the cabbage into quarters, and then remove the core. Chop the cabbage into shreds of desired size.
Combine cut cabbage, tatsoi, and radishes in a bowl.
Toss salad with dressing and enjoy!
For the dressing:
- Whisk together honey, vinegar, salt, pepper, and water.
- Add olive oil to mixture and whisk until combined.
- If too tart, add additional honey.
Southern Fried Cabbage
Recipe from allrecipes.com
- 3 slices of bacon, cut into thirds
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 head of cabbage, cored and sliced
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 1 pinch of white sugar
- Place the bacon and vegetable oil into a large pot over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until bacon is crisp.
- Add cabbage, onion, and sugar to the pot; cook and stir continuously for 5 minutes, until tender.
Mason Jar Sauerkraut
Recipe from thekitchn.com
- 1 head of cabbage
- 1 ½ Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp caraway seeds (optional, for flavor)
- Slice cabbage into thin ribbons.
- Place the cabbage in a bowl, and sprinkle with salt.
- Work the salt into the cabbage by massaging it with your hands. The cabbage should become watery and limp (about 5-10 minutes).
- Pack the cabbage into a jar, pour any remaining liquid on top.
- Pack the cabbage down, and cover.
- Over the next 24 hours, press down on the cabbage every so often. As the cabbage releases its liquid, it will become more limp and compact and the liquid will rise over the top of the cabbage.
- Ferment for 3-10 days, out of direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature.