Want to take a crack at an inexpensive, healthy and delicious veggie? Well, let’s try some cabbage. I couldn’t find a corned beef and cabbage recipe — a St. Patrick’s Day classic — that fit our healthy criteria. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with cabbage’s flavor, texture and nutrients.
History and Varieties
Cabbage dates back more than 2,000 years — the builders of the Great Wall of China noshed on it for energy and stamina. Cabbage is common in many cultures (including Irish, German, Italian and American) and you can prepare it many ways.
Common cabbage varieties include red, green, savoy, bok choy and napa cabbage. Red and green have firm crisp layers, while savoy and napa are more delicate in texture and flavor. Bok choy (or Chinese cabbage) looks a bit different than the other varieties — it has thick white stalks and fluffy green leaves (both are delicious). You can eat all kinds of cabbage cooked or raw (personally, I prefer my bok choy lightly steamed or sautéed). Cabbage is also commonly served pickled or fermented as sauerkraut.
Cabbage is classified as a cruciferous vegetable, in the same family as brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and mustard greens. (Learn more about the disease-fighting powers of this veggie family in this article.) Once cup of raw cabbage has more than half a days worth of vitamin C and more than 80% of your daily dose of vitamin K. It also contains folate and fiber. Green cabbage varieties contain isothiocyanates, photochemicals with potential cancer-fighting benefits. Red cabbage contains anthocyanins, the same compound that gives blueberries their antioxidant power. Fermented cabbage also contains lactobacillus acidophilus, a sought-after probiotic.
Ways to Enjoy
Cabbage is way more versatile than you might think. In our house, we eat cabbage at least once a week as an alternative to lettuce or spinach. Top tacos with shredded cabbage, wilt it into a stir-fry or make a light and healthy coleslaw to serve with sandwiches. For a heartier side dish, try braising red cabbage with root vegetables or making sweet and sour stuffed cabbage rolls with lean ground beef. Preserve cabbage by pickling or the make the Korean cabbage specialty called kimchee.
Shopping Tip: When buying cabbage, look for heads that are tight, firm and brightly colored. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator drawer. Whole heads will stay fresh for weeks (even months); once sliced, use it within two weeks.