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Cabbage, green

Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

A sturdy, abundant vegetable that is rich in vitamin C, cabbage is almost on par with potatoes or corn as a long-standing dietary staple. An inexpensive food that is easy to grow, almost universally available, and keeps well, cabbage--as a member of the large family of cruciferous vegetables--is rich in nutrients. Along with vitamin C, it contains significant amounts of the nitrogen compounds known as indoles, which appear to lower the risk of various forms of cancer. Cabbage also contains a good amount of fiber, both soluble and insoluble.

Varieties

Green cabbage has smooth, dark to pale green outer leaves; the inner leaves are pale green or white. (Sometimes the outer leaves are tied around the head as the cabbage grows to keep the interior white; cabbage also turns white if it is kept in cold storage.) Three types of green cabbage, Danish, domestic and pointed, account for most commercially marketed cabbage.

Danish types: Danish types, which are grown for late fall sale, and for storage over the winter, are very compact and solid, with round or oval heads.

Domestic: Domestic types form slightly looser, round or flattened heads, with curled leaves that are more brittle than any of the Danish types.

Pointed: Pointed varieties, which are grown mainly in the Southwest for spring marketing, have small, rather conical heads and smooth leaves.

Availability

Cabbage grows in a variety of climates and conditions; in fact, it is cultivated commercially in almost every state for local markets, and since it also stores well, there is always a good supply. During the winter, most cabbage comes from California, Florida, and Texas.

Shopping

Look for solid, heavy heads of cabbage, with no more than three or four loose "wrapper" (outer) leaves. These outer leaves should be clean and flexible but not limp, and free of discolored veins or worm damage, which may penetrate the interior of the head. The stem should be closely trimmed and healthy looking, not dry or split. The inner and outer leaves should be tightly attached to the stem. Fall and winter cabbage from storage is usually firmer than the fresh-picked types sold in spring and summer. Don't buy halved or quartered heads of cabbage, even if well wrapped: As soon as the leaves are cut or torn, the vegetable begins to lose vitamin C.

Storage

Cabbage keeps well and retains its vitamin C if kept cold. Place the whole head of cabbage in a perforated plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator crisper. An uncut head of green cabbage will keep for at least two weeks.

Once a head of cabbage is cut, cover the cut surface tightly with plastic wrap and use the remainder within a day or two. Rubbing the cut surface with lemon juice will prevent it from discoloring.

Preparation

The interior of a head of green cabbage is nearly always clean, but if you want to rinse it, do so shortly before cooking the cabbage, and after you cut or chop it. To conserve its vitamin C, don't cut up cabbage until you're ready to cook it.

When cutting cabbage into wedges, leave part of the core intact to help hold the leaves together. However, when cabbage is to be cut up into smaller pieces, the first step is to quarter and core it: Cut the cabbage in quarters through the stem. Then cut out a wedge-shape section from each quarter to remove the stem and core.

To slice or shred cabbage, place a quarter wedge on the cutting board, resting on its side. Slice through the wedge vertically to cut it into wide ribbons or fine shreds. You can also grate cabbage by hand on the coarse side of a grater, or shred it in the food processor, using the grating disk.

Use a stainless steel knife when cutting cabbage; its juices react with carbon steel and the cut edges of the cabbage will turn black.

Cabbage should be cooked quickly, then served as soon as possible.

Boiling: The pungent smell for which cabbage is notorious is caused by sulfur compounds that are released when the vegetable is heated. Cook cabbage quickly, in a large quantity of water, in an uncovered pot (don't use an aluminum pot, which promotes the chemical reaction).

Cooking cabbage quickly in an uncovered pot also preserves the vegetable's color. To minimize loss of vitamins and minerals, add cabbage to water that's already boiling; once it's cooked, save the water to use in stock or soup. Cooking times: for quarters or large wedges, 10 to 15 minutes; for shredded cabbage, two to three minutes.

Braising: Braise quartered or shredded cabbage in stock, apple juice, cider, or wine. Thinly sliced onions will enhance the flavor. Place the cabbage and just enough liquid to cover it in a heavy skillet, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer

Microwaving: Place wedges of cabbage in a microweavable baking dish with 2 tablespoons water, vegetable broth, or chicken stock. (For shredded cabbage, add 1/4 cup liquid to 2 cups cabbage.) Cooking time: for wedges, five to seven minutes; for shredded, five minutes, stirring halfway through.

Steaming: This is the best way to conserve nutrients, color, and crisp-tender texture. If cabbage is steamed with no added water--that is, cooked in its own moisture--it will retain 68% of its vitamin C content, compared to 44% when cooked in water to cover. Place quartered, sliced, or shredded cabbage in a vegetable steamer over boiling water, or in a pan with 1/2" boiling water. Cooking times: for quarters or large wedges, 10 to 15 minutes; for shredded cabbage, five to 10 minutes.

Stir-frying: Stir-fry sliced or shredded cabbage on its own, or in mixed-vegetable dishes. Cooking time: one to two minutes.

Stuffed cabbage: Use sturdy cabbage leaves as wrappers for a filling of rice or other grains, such as barley or kasha, mixed with chopped vegetables or meat. It's easiest to use an already-cooked filling, although some recipes call for raw beef or uncooked rice.

To prepare leaves for stuffing, cut them at the base, then remove them from the head and blanch until limp (three to five minutes). Then shave off the thick part of the central rib from the back of each leaf, to make the leaf easier to roll. Place the filling at the bottom of the leaf's cuplike hollow, then fold the bottom and the two sides of the leaf over the filling and roll up firmly. Secure the rolls with toothpicks and then arrange them in a baking dish just large enough to hold them. Add stock, tomato sauce, or other liquid and bake until the leaves are tender and the filling is heated through.

For an even easier method of stuffing the leaves, place a blanched prepared leaf in a small ladle or dry measuring cup (a 1/2-cup measure works well); let the edges of the leaf hang over. Pack the filling into the leaf and fold the edges over to enclose the filling. Place the rolls, folded-side down, in a baking dish and proceed with the recipe.

Nutrition Chart

Green cabbage/1 cup shredded raw

18
Total fat (g)
0.2
Saturated fat (g)
0
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.1
Dietary fiber (g)
1.6
Protein (g)
1
Carbohydrate (g)
4
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
13
Vitamin C (mg)
23


Date Published: 04/20/2005
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