Also called: Brassica oleracea var. capitata (botanical name for green cabbage)
What is cabbage?
Crunchy coleslaw dressed with reduced fat mayonnaise and enjoyed with a barbequed sausages is a typical way for many Australians to spend carefree summer afternoons. But delicately pickled cabbage can also be used to lift the flavour of heavier, European winter dishes.
In the Middle Ages, cabbages were a very important food, as this vegetable can be stored fresh or pickled to guarantee supply during long, harsh winters. Cabbages became a prominent part of the diet in the Middle Ages, with both white and red cabbages cultivated in Germany in the 12th century. Records show that the Savoy variety did not appear until the 16th century.
Cabbage seeds arrived in Australia on the First Fleet in 1788 and were planted on Norfolk Island. The popularity of this vegetable increased until, by the 1830s, the markets of Sydney were doing a roaring trade in cabbages.
In Victoria, cabbage is sold by type and shape rather than by variety. Heads of cabbage can be firm or loose, flat, cone- or cylinder-shaped. Cabbages also come in various colours, including white, green and red.
The most common cabbages available are the green (or common) or white varieties. These cabbages have white to green leaves that are tightly wrapped around the head. The Savoy is another variety that has distinctive-looking crinkled leaves that range from pale to dark green and is also common in supermarkets and fresh food markets. The Savoy has a milder flavour than the green variety. Red cabbage tastes like green cabbage and adds a splash of colour to dishes.
Why cabbage is good to eat
- Cabbage is rich in nutrients and an excellent source of vitamin C and dietary fibre.
- Cabbage supplies your body with vitamin K, which is important for the health of your bones and for the formation of blood clots after injury.
- It is also a great source of folate and potassium.
- Energy – 100 g of green cabbage supplies 70 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Cabbage seedlings need firmly packed soil and plenty of water to grow well. They grow best in a cool, moist climate.
Cabbage plants are round and have large, outer green leaves at the base. The head (centre) of the cabbage has tightly closed, smaller leaves. When the head of the cabbage is firm to the touch it means that it is mature and ready for harvesting. Harvesting is done by hand – the cabbage is cut at ground level, leaving some of the stalk and outer leaves attached to the head.
Select cabbage that is heavy for its size, with crisp, brightly coloured leaves. Avoid choosing cabbages with droopy, wilted, yellow or discoloured outer leaves. Also be on the lookout for signs of insect damage. The tightness of the outer leaves indicates the freshness – separation from the head of the cabbage suggests that the vegetable is old.
How to store and keep cabbage
Cabbage should be stored in a plastic bag in the crisper section of your fridge. They will keep for up to a week when stored this way. Cabbages that have been cut will lose their freshness more rapidly than whole cabbages.
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