Cabbages (Brassica oleracea)

Looking for a quick, easy and inexpensive vegetable dish? Cabbage is the answer.

Cabbage is one of the least labor intensive vegetables to prepare because it grows from the inside out. To prepare, all one has to do is remove any soiled or blemished outer leaves, cut to desired size pieces and cook. No stringing, no peeling, no scrubbing.

Don’t like green cabbage? There are a couple reasons for that: 1. you were served the wrong variety of cabbage, or 2. you were served overcooked cabbage.

There are more than a hundred varieties of cabbages in many different sizes, shapes and colors – round head, flat head, pointy head, curly leaves, green, white, red, purple …..

The round, very heavy and smooth (kinda leathery) leaves variety (reminds me of a basketball) has a strong cabbage aroma when cooking and a chewy texture. Not my favorite.

The round with a little wave to its leaves variety (photo above) has a sweet mild flavor and a crisp tender texture. One of my favorites. I also like the flat head, pointy head and savoy.

If you still don’t like cabbage or you like it but it doesn’t like you, try napa cabbage (left photo) or celery cabbage. These cabbages are mild, sweet and delicious.

Storage: All cabbages store well in the refrigerator. I once experimented to see how long I can keep a freshly harvested napa cabbage in the refrigerator. Results: 6 weeks.

This is what I did. Harvested a mature head of napa cabbage in the morning. Remove all soiled and blemished outer leaves. Left on the kitchen counter to air dry (it is important that there is no moisture on the leaves). Wrapped cabbage in clean dry paper towels, placed in a plastic bag (cut the corners of the plastic bag to allow for air circulation), dated and placed in refrigerator.

Whenever I want to cook some cabbage, I remove as many outer leaves as needed (do not cut through the cabbage), rewrap remaining cabbage in clean, dry paper towels, place in plastic bags and return to refrigerator. Repeat as needed until cabbage is used. Do the same with green and red cabbages.

Cooking: Cabbage is an extremely versatile vegetable – boil, steam, stir-fry, bake, pickle; add to soups, stews ….. Use alone or combined with other vegetables, meat, seafood, poultry, tofu, eggs …..

Below are 2 easy cabbage recipes

FromMy Students’ Favorite Chinese Recipes, updated edition by Norma Chang

½ – 1 pound green cabbage, thinly sliced (can be done ahead of time)
½ – 1 pound napa cabbage, thinly sliced (can be done ahead of time)
2 – 3 slices ginger, fresh or from ginger wine
1 – 2 tablespoons ginger wine or water, if needed
½ – 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
1 – 2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil or to taste, optional

Add oil to a preheated wok or frying pan. Add ginger slices, stir-fry 10 seconds to flavor the oil. Add salt and cabbages. Sitr-fry until cabbages are crisp-tender, 3 – 4 minutes, adding ginger wine or water 1 tablespoon at a time if wok or frying pan is too dry. Turn off heat, stir in sesame oil if using, adjust taste. Serve hot or at room temperature.

NOTE: Green cabbage is a low-water content vegetable, napa cabbage is a high-water content vegetable, the liquid from the napa cabbage will help the green cabbage stay moist.

This above is a quick-fix vegetable dish. If time permits, add 1 minced shallot and 1 – 2 cloves minced garlic at the same time as the ginger.

To elevate this plain dish to company fare, garnish with fresh, unsprayed, edible flowers or carrot flowers (see photo).

Peel a 1½-inch (about) piece of carrot. With a sharp paring knife, make 5 lengthwise V’s. (I like 5 petals on my flowers, make more V’s if you want more petals.) Round off the corners. Using a sharp slicing knife, slice thinly into carrot flowers (12 – 15 slices).

VARIATION 1: Add 1 – 2 tablespoons soy sauce or oyster sauce and/or Asian chili sauce to taste
VARIATION 2: Add 1 – 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, Chinkiang vinegar, lemon/lime juice and/or zest
VARIATION 3: Add dried cranberries and/or toasted nuts of choice


1½ pounds (8 – 9 cups) shredded green cabbage
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
3 – 6 slices ginger, fresh or from ginger wine or 1 – 2 tablespoons shredded
¾ cup unflavored rice vinegar
1 –  2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

Combine all the above ingredients. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.

VARIATION: Add 1 – 8 chili peppers, leave whole or shredded

Copyright © 2011 by Norma Chang

About Norma Chang

I am the author/publisher of 2 user-friendly Chinese cookbooks: "My Students' Favorite Chinese Recipes (updated edition)" and "Wokking Your Way to Low Fat Cooking" A gardener who enjoys cooking and eating and loves to think outside the box A garden volunteer at Locust Grove Heritage Vegetable Garden Conduct hands-on cooking workshops for teenagers Conduct cultural programs for children and family Conduct healthy cooking classes for adults
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10 Responses to Cabbages (Brassica oleracea)

  1. Dave says:

    I do love cabbage. I’ve got both regular and Napa cabbage in the fridge right now. It’s good to know the Napa will keep for 6 weeks. I had some in a stir fry yesterday.

  2. Robin says:

    Thanks for the informative post on cabbage. The recipes are great and I just love the carrot flowers! What a wonderful idea!

  3. Wilderness says:

    I love cabbage any way I can get it. I sometimes shred it, steam it and then put it in a cheese sauce.

  4. leduesorelle says:

    Great tips on storing cabbage! We just had napa cabbage last night in a variation of Aglio e Olio we once ate in Japan — sauteed up with lots of garlic, black pepper and white wine, and tossed with spaghetti.

  5. Pingback: Harvest Monday, January 27, 2014 – Last of My 2013 Harvest From the Fridge + 5 Most Viewed Post in 2013 | Garden to Wok

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