One of the first wild plants to be domesticated by ancient farmers, the cabbage has been bred into over 400 modern varieties. Its adaptability to a variety of climates, as well as its ease of storage, have made it a mainstay of peasant food, and likely helped incorporate the cabbage into the folklore of many cultures around the world.

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History

Native to coastal locations from southern Europe to northern China, the domesticated cabbage quickly became a commonplace food for ancient people. In the time of ancient Rome, cabbage was used medicinally for everything from preventing infection to curing hangovers. The expansion of the Roman Empire spread the cabbage into northern Europe and the British Isles. Traders and explorers in the 17th and 18th centuries carried large stores of cabbage to prevent scurvy, and spread use of the vegetable into the New World.

Nutrition

Along with significant levels of manganese, iron, and vitamin B6, cabbage contains nearly half the recommended daily amount of vitamin C and an ample amount of antioxidants.

Storage

Remove loose outer leaves from the cabbage, wrap the head in a damp paper towel, and store in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper for up to 7 days.

Preparation

Cabbage can be prepared in nearly every way imaginable. Raw cabbage can be shredded into salads and slaws, or fermented into kimchi or sauerkraut. Whole cabbage leaves add significant nutrition to soups and stews, or sliced into ribbons and added to stir-fry or made into the Japanese savory pancake okonomiyaki. Cabbage leaves can also be wrapped around fillings such as ground meat, sausage, beans, or grains and baked, steamed or braised.

Cooking

Sauté chopped garlic, ginger and scallions in a mixture of soy sauce and miso paste. Add 2 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a boil, then add your favorite noodles. Let simmer for a few minutes, then add 2 cups of sliced cabbage. Cook until noodles and cabbage are tender, then remove from heat. Garnish with sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, and chili flakes.

Pro Tips

If your red cabbage begins turning blue while cooking, add a little bit of acid (such as lemon juice, vinegar or even wine) to restore the deep purple color.

Chinese

Often referred to as Napa cabbage, this varietal is yellow-green in color and grows in an oblong shape, with crisp, thick stems and frilly, sweet leaves.

Cone

Despite its similar appearance to the standard green cabbage, this oblong variety is significantly sweeter than its spherical relative. Native to Germany, it is the preferred cabbage for authentic German sauerkraut.

Red Cabbage

With a beautiful purple color (contributed by anthocyanins) and an extra crisp texture (thanks to taking longer than green cabbage to mature), red cabbage is particularly well suited to fermenting.

Savoy

The crinkly, pliable texture of this sweet Italian varietal makes it easier to use in cabbage rolls and other wrapped preparations.

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