The Cabbage Advantage: Thinking Beyond Coleslaw
Cabbage. There are some great ways to add this nutrient-packed vegetable to your diet in ways that go beyond the traditional creamy coleslaw. Cabbage is a good source of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, fiber, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. “Cabbage” refers to a family of vegetables that has a mild sweetness and great versatility. With multiple varieties out there, it is easy to find one that works for your taste buds.
Here are some of the options:
Green Cabbage – The most basic of cabbages. This compact, long-lasting, and sweet head is great on the grill. Cut into wedges and lightly brushed with olive oil and herbs, the flavors will surely be a hit at your next barbecue.
Napa Cabbage – Similar to green cabbage, but longer in shape and slightly lower in calories. Sometimes known as “Chinese cabbage,” this leafy vegetable is used in various Asian dishes. Steaming the long leaves makes them ideal for a vegetable-packed spring roll.
Red Cabbage – Red cabbage is packed with vitamins because of its darker coloring. With twice the amount of Vitamin A and iron as green cabbage, adding this vegetable is a great way to meet your daily requirements for both. Braise it in a skillet with apples and apple cider vinegar for a sweet and flavorful dish.
Savoy Cabbage – The very distinct look of its leaves sets this cabbage apart from the other green-colored varieties. The crinkled texture of the leaves adds to eye appeal. Although they appear rough, the leaves are tender and tasty when raw. Try steaming and serving with fish, or add to a kimchi creation.
Bok Choy – This variety has distinct leaves that grow from a center stalk. Bok choy is best used in a stir-fry, or braised to bring out the sweet flavor, but it can also be added raw to a salad to bring forth a bold and distinctive flavor.
Brussels Sprouts – This member of the family resembles miniature heads of cabbage, and will be available in our area in the fall. Try them roasted or braised in olive oil to bring out their full flavor.
The hearty members of the cabbage family grow well in cooler temperatures, and many store well, so there are fresh options available throughout the year. Their leaves stand up well to vinaigrette dressings, so toss them in raw to make a salad or slaw that will stay crisp at a picnic for a summer treat. Try this recipe for fresh Asian Slaw to get started!
Asian Slaw (Serves 8)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 6 tablespoons minced ginger
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
- 4 cups Napa or red and green cabbage
- 2 cups julienned carrots
- 1 cup green or red onion
- 1 cup thinly sliced red pepper
- 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
- In a small saucepan, add 1/4 cup olive oil, and the ginger and garlic. Sauté until lightly brown.
- Add brown sugar, soy sauce, and white wine. Sauté for 5 more minutes and remove from heat. When cool, whisk in the rest of the olive oil, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar.
- In a separate pan, lightly toast the sesame seeds.
- Mix all vegetables in a bowl and toss with dressing. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top and mix in lightly.
In the Kitchen
When selecting, choose compact and firm heads without any evidence of brown spots or worm damage. To prepare the head of cabbage, remove the thick outer leaves and wash. Cook until just tender as unpleasant smelling sulfur compounds are released with prolonged cooking.
In the Garden
Cabbage grows best in cooler temperature, usually grown in both spring and fall. Spring cabbage should be planted approximately a month before the last frost, so it can mature before the summer heat. Fall plants should be planted in late July or early August, 6-8 weeks before the first frost of fall. Growing in cooler weather makes the cabbage sweeter and more pleasant to eat.
Cathy McIsaac, a registered dietician, is the Manager of Clinical Nutrition at Fletcher Allen.