Getting Candid about Cabbage
Do you know your Savoy from your Bok Choy?
Did you know that there are over 400 different varieties of cabbage grown throughout the world, from round to conical in shape; with flat or curly, tight, or loose leaves; and in green, white, red, and purple colours? Cabbage is without a doubt one of winter’s favourite vegetables and not only are they easy to grow and multitalented in the kitchen, they’re also packed with nutritious goodness including Vitamin A, C and K.
I’ve always loved cabbages for their versatility and goodness. That love grew when I lived in Asia and was introduced to a variety of cabbages and then started making my own kimchi. Kimchi is a staple traditional Korean side dish made of fermented and salted Napa cabbage and radish. Kimchi is full of beta-carotene and other antioxidant compounds and has become very popular in the West, along with other fermented foods, helping to improve the levels of good bacteria in our gut.
These are a few of my favourite cabbage varieties and how to identify them – if you’re still not sure, you can use Candide’s Plant ID, a super smart, convenient and easy to use tool that lets you know what’s what in the green space.
Probably one of the most common cabbages seen on the supermarket shelf, white cabbage is affordable, healthy, has numerous uses in the kitchen and can be kept in the fridge for up to two months. Have leftovers? No problem, white cabbage can also be stored in the freezer after proper preparation. This popular Brassica is packed with minerals including selenium, potassium and magnesium. We’d definitely swipe right on this one!
With its stellar reputation in the world of fine dining, you won’t mind the frills on this cabbage. Compared to red or white cabbage, Savoy cabbage is more delicate in taste, tender, and does not require much time to cook. As with other Brassica members, Savoy cabbage contains volatile mustard oils that function as a natural antibiotic, discouraging bacteria and viruses. With a resumé like this, Kale’s Instagram fame might just be in the soup.
Red cabbage by far outshines other Brassicas in the looks department. Its bright reddish-purple colour lights up any plate, whether roasted, raw, pickled or braised. Here’s a crunchy fact for you: Red cabbage turns a bluish-violet colour when mixed with sweet ingredients but when combined with more acidic ingredients, it turns a reddish colour. When shopping for red cabbage, be sure to gently press it to ascertain that it is still firm and of good quality.
Known as the Chinese cabbage, napa differs from other head cabbages in that its light green leaves are oblong, tightly packed, and extend from thick white stalks. It’s not only inexpensive, but nutritious, filling and very easy to prepare. Napa cabbage is very popular for making kimchi and with its mild flavour, it is delectable in spicy stir-frys and fresh salads.
Once confined to meals in Chinese restaurants, Bok choy has moved its way to the top of the cool-season planting list in most vegetable gardens. A Chinese cabbage, Bok choy has crisp, white stalks with tender, dark green leaves flaring outwards. It is also known by its Chinese name ‘pak choi, meaning ‘white cabbage’. With its shorter shelf life, Bok choy is a bit trickier to preserve so be sure to harvest or buy only as much as you need.
Contrary to their reputation among most kids, these tiny bitter, green cabbageheads can actually be transformed into a delicacy. It’s all about the preparation. They can be roasted, steamed and sautéed to make the perfect side dish for a warm, wintery meal.
This old-fashioned leafy green has made quite the comeback. From chips to smoothies to salads, kale has infiltrated every superfood recipe book and blog, and understandably so. Kale is a wonderful addition to any diet with its vitamin and mineral content, and can be enjoyed raw in salads or cooked in stews. It is also well-loved for the sheer variety that is available including curly kale, Russian kale, Tuscan kale, and numerous others.
Grow Great Brassicas
Growing cabbage is fairly easy because it’s a robust vegetable that isn’t too fussy. Cabbage comes to harvest in 80 to 180 days from seed and according to de Bruyn is a cool-weather crop so it’s best to grow cabbage in spring so that it comes to harvest before the summer heat or start cabbage in mid to late summer so that it comes to harvest during the cool days of autumn, winter, or early spring.
For more grow, care and cultivation information, download the free gardening app, Candide on the Apple or Google Play store.
Korean Kimchi made with Napa Cabbage:
- 1 head napa cabbage
- 1/4 cup iodine-free sea salt or kosher salt
- Water, preferably distilled or filtered
- 1 tablespoon grated garlic
- 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 to 5 tablespoons Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
- 4 Spring onions trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- Cut the cabbage lengthwise through the stem into quarters. Cut the cores from each piece. Cut each quarter crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips.
- Place cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Using your hands, massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften a bit. Add enough water to cover the cabbage. Put a plate on top of the cabbage and weigh it down with something heavy, like a jar or can of beans. Let stand for 1 to 2 hours.
- Rinse the cabbage thoroughly under cold water. Set aside to drain in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add the garlic, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce, shrimp paste, or water and stir into a smooth paste. Stir in the gochugaru, using 1 tablespoon for mild and up to 5 tablespoons for spicy.
- Gently squeeze any remaining water from the cabbage and add it to the spice paste. Add the radish and spring onions.
- Using your hands, gently work the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated. The gloves are optional here but highly recommended to protect your hands from stings, stains, and smells.
- Pack the kimchi into a jar. Press down on the kimchi until the brine (the liquid that comes out) rises to cover the vegetables, leaving 3 cm of space at the top. Seal the jar.
- Place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch any overflow. Let the jar stand at cool room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 1 to 5 days. You may see bubbles inside the jar and brine may seep out of the lid.
- Check the kimchi once a day, opening the jar and pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon to keep them submerged under the brine. (This also releases gases produced during fermentation.) Taste a little at this point, too! When the kimchi tastes ripe enough for your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. You may eat it right away, but it’s best after another week or two.
*Recipe adapted from thekitchn.com
By Roné de Bruyn, Country Manager for Candide
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