Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
Yeah, I didn’t think you had. So allow me to be the one to sing the praises of this unsung hero among vegetables.
Regular readers of this blog have undoubtedly heard me lavish heaps of kind words upon what some people think is boring and others just plain gross. I do it because cabbage really is good. In so many ways.
I don’t know of a more versatile vegetable — it goes in soups, stews, salad, you can roll things up in it, it can be fermented. How many vegetables can technically rot, and still be edible and taste good?
The biggest bonus: it’s cheap. I just spent $1.69 on a sizable head of savoy cabbage that will be the fodder for several meals. And at this time of year, it’s one of the rare examples of Ontario produce still to be found in that bastion of imports, the grocery store.
So here’s the rundown on cabbage. I tried to find a cabbage growers association because virtually every commodity grown here in Ontario has one. My personal favourites are separate associations for white beans and coloured beans. It makes me chuckle. Is affirmative action needed in the bean world?
Anyway, cabbage doesn’t have its own dedicated group touting its merits. But the Fresh Vegetable Growers of Ontario certainly have plenty of cabbage fun facts.
Cabbage is part of the same family as another one of my personal favourites, kale — definitely worthy of a post of its own one day. Cauliflower, for which I’m only now starting to develop an affinity, kohlrabi and (ick, sorry) Brussel sprouts all sprout from the same lineage.
I’ve mentioned in a previous post that cabbage is like the guy at the party who stands off to himself and people are unsure of approaching. But once someone makes the effort, they don’t regret it. Cabbage actually quite interesting and entertaining.
And coming in shades of smooth leathery green, deep reds and purples or the crinkly, buttery yellow-green hues of Savoy, I think whoever came up with that simile gave cabbage an apt description.
It’s also low in fat, high in those free radical-fighting anti-oxidants and red cabbage has twice as much vitamin C as green cabbage. But wait. Green cabbage has twice the folate of red, while savoy is high in a nutrient normally plentiful in orange veggies: beta-carotene.
Alas, now that I’ve sold you on this uber-vegetable, here are a couple of my favourite things to do with it.
(adapted from What to Cook When You Think There’s Nothing in the House to Eat By Arthur Schwartz)
*I prefer to use savoy cabbage. All the ruffles seem to pocket the dressing and, generally Savoy tastes less pungent, to me, than regular green cabbage.
3 tbsp (or more to taste) rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground ginger or 1/2 tsp (or more to taste) finely minced gingerroot
Big Pinch (or more to taste) cayenne
3 tbsp sesame oil or olive oil, or a combo of both
1 large carrot shredded (this adds some great colour)
1 two-pound head of cabbage, cored, quartered, and shredded as finely as possible (about 5 cups)
Combine cabbage and carrot in a bowl and set aside.
Place vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, ginger (or gingerroot), cayenne, and oil in a jar and shake well.
Toss the shredded cabbage and carrot with the dressing. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge for several days’ worth of slaw.
Schwartz also recommends stir-frying this recipe. I like it better cold and on day two.