There are more than 400 known varieties of fresh cabbage, all varying in size, shape and texture.
At our local farmers markets, you can expect to encounter at least a dozen types of fresh cabbage, including some more unique types such as the “drumhead” and “oxheart.”
The most readily available types of cabbage break down into four main categories: green cabbage, purple cabbage, Savoy cabbage and Napa (aka Chinese) cabbage.
The most common cabbages are the rounded green and purple varieties. These tend to possess very tightly packed bright green leaves that allow for a crunchy texture when sliced and shredded.
Green cabbage is loaded with vitamin C and contains significant amounts of the nitrogen compounds known as indoles, which appear to lower the risk of various forms of cancer. Cabbage also contains a good amount of fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Red cabbage too possesses these great nutritional qualities, although it has twice the vitamin C as its green counterpart.
Savoy cabbage is similar in shape to that of the standard green and purple varieties, but its leaves take on a different form. Instead of smooth and shiny, Savoy cabbage had wrinkled and curled leaves. The leaves are less compact towards the outer portion.
I commonly enjoy Savoy cabbage raw in Asian-style salads, as it delivers a nice mild-sweet finish. Savoy cabbage contains a similar nutritional profile to its counterparts, although delivers a greater boost of beta-carotene, five times more than either green or red cabbage.
Napa, or Chinese, cabbage is the most unique variety of the bunch, often reaching twice the size as the other varieties when fully mature, with an elongated shape rather than round. The leaves of the Napa cabbage are light green, with bright white veins running from base to tip on each leaf.
The bottom couple inches, where there is no green color present, is often discarded before eating as it can be slightly bitter.
This variety is ideal for enjoying raw in a Chinese Chicken Salad, when sautéed with seasonal veggies, or when sliced in half, drizzled with a little olive oil and quickly grilled.
This week I prepared the Napa Cabbage and Rice Noodle Salad.
Napa Cabbage and Rice Noodle Salad
2 cloves garlic, minced.
1 tablespoon fish sauce.
2 tablespoons sesame oil.
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce.
Juice from 2 limes.
1 tablespoon soy sauce.
12 ounces dried Chinese noodles.
2 cups Napa cabbage, chopped.
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped.
2 green onions, cut into thin angled rounds.
2 carrots, sliced this (julienned).
1 cucumber, diced.
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped.
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts or cashews.
Whisk together garlic, fish sauce, sesame oil, sweet chili sauce, lime juice and soy sauce. Set aside. Cook noodles in boiling water for about 2 minutes, strain and rinse under cold water. Gently toss together noodles with sauce and remaining ingredients.
Yield: Serves 3.