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The properties of cabbage

One of the ingredients that is most frequently used in local culinary customs is cabbage. It was once thought to be a food for the poor, but due to its nutritional qualities and great benefit—being incredibly dietetic—it has since been reevaluated. In fact, the calorie intake is very low, to the point that it does not exceed 25 kcal per 100 grams. This doesn’t make cabbage a poor ingredient, even from a nutritional point of view.

It is obviously devoid of proteins and carbohydrates, but it does contain a sizable amount of vitamins and mineral salts. It offers magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, selenium, and vitamin B1. Given its high nutritional content and previously mentioned calorie content, it is ideal for seasoning somewhat heavier dishes like spaghetti. However, the many Italian culinary customs offer numerous interpretations of the traditional “pasta and cabbage.”

The different varieties of cabbage

Cabbage has been cultivated for millennia, so it is not surprising that so many varieties still exist today. Here is a quick overview of the most consumed ones:

  • Savoy cabbage: Its leaves are distinguished by their tendency to be vivid green, their tendency to be somewhat rigid, and their slightly bitter flavour. It is the main ingredient in a lot of Lombardy and Piedmont regional cuisines.
  • White kohlrabi: Despite the name, it has very little to do with turnips. What is especially surprising is its structure, which has a bulb surmounted by a stem full of greenish leaves. Although they are edible, the leaves are generally discarded, and only the bulb is consumed. This variety is perfect for soups but also as a seasoning for pasta or as a filling for savoury pies.
  • Purple kohlrabi: It is a sub-variant of the white kohlrabi. It is not exactly purple; however, there are unique purple streaks in the stem due to the high concentration of anthocyanins.
  • Green cabbage: It is characterised by rather thick, but at the same time smooth, light green leaves. The flavour is distinctly sweet and is usually used to make soups.
  • Red cabbage: It is similar to the green variant. However, it differs from it in terms of colour, a slightly less sweet flavour, and thinner leaves, which can also be eaten raw.
  • Chinese cabbage, or Bok Choi: This variety is characterised by its unique shape, generally oval, and its small size. This cabbage has the highest amounts of vitamin A and vitamin C.
  • Black cabbage: The distinctive feature of this type is the presence of large, rough leaves that have a pleasing visual impression. It can be added to stews, soups, and even couscous. It is one of the ingredients in Tuscan ribollita. This vegetable makes a fantastic pesto, given its texture.

Here are some recipes:

Cabbage is a rather versatile vegetable and, in most cases, is used as the main ingredient in soups and creams. However, there are also many recipes that contain this vegetable as the primary ingredient and are a little more substantial, such as the aforementioned pasta. In this regard, I would like to point out the delicious hemp tagliolini. Cabbage soup and other steamed vegetables are also very good. This vegetable, in some cases, can be used to make particular side dishes, as demonstrated by the recipe for cabbage with apples and currants, an absolute must-try!

How is cabbage cooked?

Among the advantages of cabbage, their versatility stands out, not only due to the differences between the many varieties but also to their consistent texture and delicate flavor. Here is a list of recipes with cabbage that impressed me the most, to which I have dedicated ample space here on the site:

Black cabbage and cod soup. The aromatic flavour of this variety interacts effectively with the flavour of the cod. It is a full-bodied and, at the same time, light first course, perfect for the winter.

Black cabbage and pumpkin soup. In this recipe, the aroma of the vegetable is enhanced by the sweetness of the pumpkin. It is a very delicate first course that presents itself very well on a “chromatic” level. The dark green, white, and orange colours form an evocative symphony on the plate.

Red cabbage lasagna. It is a creative variant of the classic Bolognese lasagna. In this recipe, the red cabbage is essential because it serves as a filler along with the béchamel. It goes without saying that, in order for the cabbage to integrate as well as possible, it must first be boiled.

Purple cabbage flan. We end with a gourmet appetiser that has an unusual flavour and eye-catching appearance. In reality, the purple of this species makes a lovely mix with the yellow of the cream, which is created with cream cheese and saffron. A sheet of cabbage is used as the decoration, giving the recipe a subtle green touch.

What is the difference between cabbage, savoy cabbage, and sauerkraut?

The cabbage family has many varieties, so it is legitimate to be disoriented when faced with this abundance of terms and varieties. There is a certain confusion between cabbage, savoy cabbage, and sauerkraut. But what are the actual differences?

The term “cabbage” indicates more than anything else the class of food. As we have seen, there are many types of cabbage, and the savoy cabbage is precisely one of these. The savoy cabbage is a variety with very thick leaves that give a fairly full-bodied flavour and are suitable for some traditional Lombardian first-course pastas.

A very different story for sauerkraut. These are cabbages treated in a specific way. In fact, they are left to ferment for a couple of months together with salt and spices. Thus, they take on a soft consistency and a sour flavour, which can be used for many preparations, from side dishes to first courses. Sauerkraut requires a specific variety of cabbage, namely the conehead cabbage, which is similar to the savoy cabbage but smoother.

What are their benefits?

I touched on the nutritional qualities of cabbage, but it’s wise to go into more detail and discuss its effects on health as well. From this perspective, several cabbage types also have noteworthy differences.

Green and yellow cabbages are rich in beta-carotene, which promotes the absorption of vitamin A, which is useful for eyesight and skin. On the other hand, purple and black cabbages are rich in anthocyanins, which are formidable antioxidants that help prevent cancer.

Moreover, the profusion of mineral salts in cabbage functions practically as a tonic for the body and enhances the health of a few organs, including the brain, teeth, and bones. Lastly, a high-fibre diet promotes digestion, but if the amounts are excessive, it may lead to certain issues.

Unlike many other vegetables, cabbage helps prevent thrombotic diseases. This is due to the abundance of vitamin K, which optimises the level of blood density. Finally, cabbages balance the absorption of blood sugar and help keep bad cholesterol low.