Cab­bages are from the “cole crop” fam­ily. Other mem­bers in this hearty tribe include broc­coli, Brus­sels sprouts, kohlrabi, col­lard greens and cau­li­flower.

We can sep­a­rate cab­bages in to four main types: green, red (or pur­ple), Savoy, and Napa cab­bages.

In com­mon are the sexy lay­ers of alter­nat­ing leaves, each cup­ping the next, form­ing a firm, dense head. Spring is the per­fect excuse to explore using all four types of cab­bages in a myr­iad of ways.

Braised, boiled, charred, sauteed or raw; rolled, slawed or casseroled– cab­bage is happy at cen­ter plate or assum­ing a sup­port­ing cast role.

From Ger­many to Asia, schnitzel to stir fry, world cuisines know how make cab­bages some­thing we crave. Com­fort dishes made by grand­moth­ers give mod­ern recipes a run for the money.

Selec­tion: Choose firm, heavy heads of green, red and savoy cab­bage with closely furled leaves. Color is an indi­ca­tion of fresh­ness. For exam­ple, green cab­bages stored for too long lose pig­ment and look almost white. To ensure fresh­ness, check the stem ends of cab­bage heads to make sure the stem has not cracked around the base, which indi­cates unde­sir­ably lengthy stor­age. Chi­nese cab­bage leaves should be crisp, unblem­ished and pale green with tinges of yel­low and white.

Stor­age: Refrig­er­ate heads of green and red cab­bage for up to two weeks. Savoy and Napa cab­bages are best used within a week of pur­chase (or har­vest). Do not cut or shred cab­bage until ready for use. Store the unused por­tion intact, wrapped in plas­tic, and use within a day or two.

Prepa­ra­tion: Dis­card any wilted or blem­ished outer leaves. Cut the core from the head, either by cut­ting the head in half or quar­ters and slic­ing the core from the cen­ter, or by cut­ting around the core from the base.

Shred or slice cab­bage for sal­ads (a food proces­sor makes quick work of the task). For a zen med­i­ta­tion, use a box grater or sharp knife.

Green cab­bage is work­horse of the fam­ily. Use it in sal­ads and slaws, stir-​fries or recipes that require long cook­ing times to bring out its essen­tial sweet nature.

Red cab­bage is more magenta or pur­ple than red. It’s great raw in sal­ads and slaws, pick­led or braised. A ten­dency to turn an odd blue color when cooked, mit­i­gate this affect by adding some sort of acid (vine­gar or lemon juice).

Savoy cab­bage (curly cab­bage is ruf­fled, lacy, with deeply ridged leaves. They are quite showy as cab­bages go. The leaves are more loosely lay­ered and less tightly packed than green or red cab­bage. More ten­der than it’s cousins, Savoy works nicely as a fresh and crunchy wrap.

Napa cab­bage (Chi­nese or cel­ery cab­bage) is elon­gated with light green leaves that flower off of thick, white stalks. It has a lovely mild fla­vor with a pep­pery kick. Per­fect for slaws, stir fry and kim­chi.

Dis­cover the dif­fer­ences of the entire fam­ily. March menus with cab­bage might bring some luck to the table.

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