Wikimedia commons, courtesy of Gran

Cabbage has an unfortunate reputation.  Gas-inducing, smelly, not so good to eat.  But– let me argue– that’s not true if you cook it properly!  Or cook it not at all.  It’s an incredibly versatile vegetable that offers excellent nutrient benefits, especially for the price.  Work on adding it to your diet for culinary, health, and pocket-book benefits.

Plain white or green head cabbage can be cooked using the flavors of virtually every cuisine in the world, from curry to corned beef.  Generally, recipes where you cook it quickly in steam and a little fat or slowly in fat and water tend to lead to good texture.  Overcooking it (especially in liquid) tends to lead to that stereotypical soggy cabbage flavor and texture. It takes well to mixtures of vegetables, so adding a few handfuls of shredded cabbage can also be a simple way to bulk out a vegetable dish or stretch a more expensive vegetable to serve more people. Feel free to substitute it for other greens, like kale or collards, or even vegetables like broccoli or lettuce. 

COOKING TIP: Do not hold cabbage dishes at warm temperatures.  Cool them quickly and reheat if necessary to keep a good texture and avoid sulphurous sodors.

Red cabbage is simply beautiful. Maintain that wonderful color by cooking it with an acid– clasically, fruit, wine, and/or vinegar. Shredded and sauteed, it can be mixed with a wide variety of fruit to make a simple cooked salad that is delicious warm or cool. One of my favorite combinations is red cabbage with apples, lemon juice, lemon zest, white wine, raisins, and nuts. Feed it to any child who will only eat purple food!

Savoy cabbage and most Asain cabbages have a fun crinkly texture and slightly sweeter taste. I particularly enjoy leaving these leave al dente, or raw, so I can enjoy the texture. Try them stir-fried, or added to a fast noodle or egg-drop soup. Quickly steamed, they also make nice substitutes for lettuce in lettuce wraps. Asian cabbage is also a must for dumpling, eggroll, and wonton fillings. Use it to stretch the meat, and add more vegetables to your diet.

Nutritionally, cabbage provides vital nutrients like vitamin C, fiber, vitamin K, and folate. One cup of raw cabbage meets over half of the recommended vitamin C for one day, and almost all your vitamin K needs for one day. Cooked, it loses a little vitamin C but still provides a substantial amount. It’s very low in calories, with 1 cup raw cabbage containing just 22 calories and 1 cup cooked cabbage containing a mere 34 calories. Overall, it is a nutrient dense food that provides a lot of bang for your calories.

If we look at the cost of cabbage, you’ll see that plain green or white cabbage will cost from $0.25 -$1.00 per pound, and one pound of cabbage yields an average of 8 servings. (Servings vary, depending on whether it is raw, or cooked, and how it’s cooked.) Basically, your serving of cabbage will typically cost you a grant total of $0.04 to $0.13. It might be less than your daily multivitamin, and less than my morning teabag. Basically, it’s a fantastic buy for an incredibly versatile vegetable.

Want some actual recipes?
German-Style Braised Red Cabbage

Colcannon (use cabbage for the vegetable)

Sautéed Savoy Cabbage with Fennel, Spring Onion, Green Garlic & Orange Peel