Different types of cabbage encapsulate cultivars of cruciferous vegetables in the Brassica species of plants. There are many types, though you might be most familiar with the varieties at your local farmer’s markets like green cabbage. Outside this common type, there are many different varieties of cabbage to discover.
Cabbage is a leafy vegetable used in multiple dishes as a staple ingredient or in side dishes. Cabbage leaves are used in cabbage rolls and dumplings, while the bulk of your cabbage goes into coleslaw, sauerkraut, and the Asian staple, kimchi.
The cabbage family of plants boasts numerous health benefits to humans. Cabbage has vitamins C and K, and studies show it produces anti-cancer chemicals. When minimally cooked, the benefits of cabbage are absorbed into the body to help reduce breast cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer.
Cabbage Varieties or Cultivars
Research published in an Environmental Health Perspectives article reported epidemiological evidence that the compounds giving cruciferous vegetables their signature taste become broken down during metabolism. This process creates by-products called isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates help by detoxifying carcinogens and getting them out of the body (..).
Aside from the standard green cabbage you find wrapped in plastic in grocery stores; there are several cultivars of cabbage, each of them including many more cultivars that you can use in canned cabbage recipes or for eating fresh.
Each type of cabbage differs in texture, color, or leaf characteristics and what meals to create with them. What does cabbage smell like? Uncooked cabbage doesn’t have much of an odor but cooked cabbage can be pungent. If it seems daunting to narrow down what to use, this article addresses the numerous choices and benefits.
Also known as Dutch Cabbage, white cabbage is known for its smooth, pale green leaves. Among fellow cabbage varieties, white cabbage is the inexpensive option while being full of flavor. White cabbage is a versatile vegetable for making batches of sauerkraut to feed your entire family.
In your fridge, white cabbage lasts at most two months but freezes well for prolonged use. To properly freeze your white cabbage after harvesting cabbage from the garden or purchasing it from the store, clean and slice it into strips before blanching in boiling water for at least five minutes.
Transfer your strips into an ice bath, then allow them to drip dry. Pack your blanched cabbage into an airtight container or freezer bag for storage for up to six months.
Often disputed between white and green cabbage, pointed cabbage has a unique, almost rounded, cone-like shape. Pointed cabbage is one of the more digestible cabbage types while coming with the same vitamin C and low-calorie benefits that other cabbages boast.
To cook pointed cabbage, remove the outer leaves and cut it into quarters. Cutting into quarters allows you to easily remove the stalk and cut the rest of your cabbage into pieces that fit the recipe you’re following.
Among other types of cabbage, pointed cabbage is typically sweeter and works well in dishes like stir-fry or on its own after being boiled and topped with butter and seasonings.
Red cabbage may not be the most popular choice in the cabbage family, often used solely around holidays as a festive side dish, but red cabbage packs enough vitamin C to complete your daily requirement in 3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams.
Distinguished from other cabbage by its dark reddish-purple roots, red cabbage is often smaller and less dense than green cabbage. Red cabbage gains its signature color from the flavonoid anthocyanin and the acidity in the soil where it’s grown.
One of the popular ways to keep cabbage fresh is by pickling it. Red cabbage is ideal for pickling and added to cider vinegar; it creates a healthy Christmas side. Red cabbage is also eaten raw in salads or cooked for taco add-ons. It’s also common for cooks to braise red cabbage with cider for a Christmas dish.
When comparing their appearance, it may be evident that Brussels sprouts are mini cabbages. Though Brussels sprouts may not be as well-liked in the cabbage family, they are packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and high fiber, making them nutritious additions to your diet.
Along with the health benefits and minerals in Brussels sprouts, these mini cabbages contain glucosinolates. This compound gives Brussels sprouts the bitter taste they are known for when metabolized in the body.
Due to their size, Brussels sprouts are typically cooked in groups and roasted or sautéed with herbs and seasoning to bring out their flavor.
Though it may seem closer to spinach, kale is a cabbage cultivar sometimes called leaf cabbage. Like some Chinese cabbage varieties, kale does not form a cabbage head; instead, the leaves fan out from a central stem.
The benefits of kale are widely known to include skin, eye, hair, digestion, and even bone density due to vitamin C and K and calcium and fiber. Aside from the green kale, there are cultivars within kale classified by their leaf type.
Most of these cultivars are acceptable to eat, though the ornamental types are less palatable with more rigid leaves. Ornamental kale is hybrid-bred to grow colorful flowers.
What are the Most Popular Types of Cabbage?
Green cabbages are one of the most popular vegetables globally and possibly the most well-known cabbage variety that you find in your local grocery store.
Based on appearance, you’re likely to reach for the cannonball cabbage when picking up a cabbage from the store; however, within the category of green cabbages, there are even more varieties of cabbages.
This green cabbage is a favorite for cooks, gardeners, and farmers. The cannonball cabbage is popular thanks to its compact size, allowing farmers to save money when shipping and growing produce. When packaged for purchase, these cabbages fill grocery displays evenly in their plastic wrappings.
Among cooks, this green cabbage is beloved for its versatility and is a favorite when it comes to braising. Another widespread use for this cabbage is to include it in a salad with lemon juice. The combination of cabbage and lemon juice aids in weight loss as the detoxifying properties in lemon juice help eliminate excess fats.
Savoy cabbage is a favorite choice among restaurants and fine dining for its versatility and short cook time. Like its fellow cabbage varieties, savoy cabbage packs vitamin C and vitamin A to help your skin and eyes and vitamin B6 to boost your immune system.
Savoy has a similar shape to most green cabbage, but with dark green leaves, a deeply crinkled appearance, with a compact head. Savoy cabbage has a milder flavor than regular green cabbage but works well when used as a replacement in recipes.
Danish Ballhead Cabbage
A favorite for sauerkraut lovers is the green cabbage cultivar Danish Ballhead. Danish cabbages are large, growing to eight to ten inches in diameter, with lots of leaves. While growing, Danish cabbage forms a large cabbage head from its leathery bluish-green leaves.
Like other green cabbage, Danish Ballhead varieties are late-fall cabbages that keep well during the winter. Pull whole plants in the fall and hang them upside-down in a cool basement for at least a month, possibly up to three months, in the right conditions.
Outside of its use for sauerkraut, Danish cabbages make excellent bases for slaws.
Portuguese cabbage is an easily recognizable cultivar of green cabbage with its oval-shaped tender leaves supported by a thick stem and white veins. Portuguese cabbage is one of the few cabbage types that grow well in both hot and cold climates.
It grows similarly to kale and is at times called Portuguese kale. Portuguese cabbage grows without a cabbage head, allowing its leaves to rise from the base stem, like kale. It differs from kale in that it has a sweeter taste with a more succulent flavor.
Portuguese cabbage is commonly used in stir-fries and soup, especially Caldo Verde, a green soup considered to be the national dish of Portugal.
Chinese Cabbage (Brassica Rapa)
There are two main cultivar groups for this leaf vegetable commonly used in Chinese dishes. These varieties fall into the subspecies Penkinesis and Chinesis.
Napa Cabbage (Penkinesis)
Napa is an oblong-shaped cabbage with crisp stems and yellow-green leaves. Based on its flavor profile, napa cabbage works well when eaten raw in salads or dumplings.
Due to its similarities in nutrients and texture, napa cabbage makes an excellent replacement for romaine lettuce if you’re looking to add more variety to your meals.
Boy Choy (Chinesis)
Bok choy is unique among cabbage varieties as a whole in that it does not form a cabbage head. When considering bok choy vs cabbage, bok choy grows a white bulb-type base that sprouts dark green leaves that grow vertically instead of wrapping around.
Typical bok choy varieties have wavy green leaves with a crunchy white stem making it perfect for stir-fries and a substitute for Swiss chard in some recipes.
When shopping for bok choy, you may come across another type, Shanghai bok choy, which is more widely available. While it does pack the same vitamins and has the same use in cooking, it is less crisp than regular bok choy and turns mushy if cooked too long.
Choy Sum (Chinesis)
Another one of the Chinese cabbage varieties, choy sum, is also known as Chinese flowering cabbage. Like bok choy, choy sum does not form a cabbage head and instead grows long bunches of stalks and yellow flowers.
The flowers that choy sum grows are edible; however, like other flowering vegetables in the cabbage family, the crop becomes bitter once the plant has flowered. To avoid this when picking your choy sum, stay away from plants with many flowers or tall flower stalks.
Growing Different Types of Cabbage from Scraps
If the idea of having your fresh supply of cabbage is appealing, you’re in luck because growing your cabbage is as simple as saving scraps attached to the stem and gathering a few everyday household items.
Sprouting Cabbage in Water
Unlike seeds, growing from scraps or the stem of a cabbage head begins by placing the scraps in water instead of soil.
To regrow cabbage from stem ends, fill your glass or container with water and place the root end of your cabbage head or stem into the water. When you plant cabbage this way, sticking toothpicks into the cabbage helps it remain in position if the cup or container is too broad.
Leave the cup or container by a window with partial shade and change the water every day until you begin to see root and sprout growth.
Planting Cabbage Types in a Container
Once you see a root system growing as well as a new sprout, transfer your cabbage to a pot or container with soil. Water the seedling a few times a week and place the pot in a location that receives partial sun.
Cabbage prefers cooler temperatures, between 55-75°F but does produce crops in warmer weather. If you live in a cooler area, transplant your cabbage or leave the pot outside to continue growing.
Common Types of Cabbage Problems
When growing your cabbage plant, there are several problems to be aware of when cultivating, such as pests and diseases infecting your plant.
Black rot is a common disease that may infect your cabbage plant. The disease is typical in cruciferous vegetables and avoided by using protectant fungicides. Because they are protectants, treat your plants before the fungus infects them to prevent spore germination.
Pests are another common issue for gardeners. Nematodes and cabbage maggots cause your cabbage plant to produce wilted plants with yellow leaves. Flea beetles and caterpillars leave holes in your plant leaves, hindering their ability to take in sunlight.
Because cabbage plants require a high level of nutrients, nutrient deficiencies are common when growing your cabbage.
Lack of potassium is common and is recognizable by a dark discoloration on the older leaf edges, also known as leaf burn. Adding fertilizer to supplement what your cabbage is missing helps stabilize the soil.
It’s incredible how many different types of cabbage exist in the world and how looking past what is readily available opens you up to new flavors and textures.
If you are inspired to seek out new types of cabbage on your next trip to the market, please share our article on cabbage types on Facebook and Pinterest with your friends and family.