If you think you know your vegetables, you clearly haven’t heard of the many varieties of cabbage. Knowing the different cabbages can prepare you for a whole new set of recipes in the kitchen.
What’s more, you will have more choices as to which type to add to your vegetable garden.
What is cabbage?
Informally known as cruciferous vegetables or cole crops, cabbages are biennial plants grown as annual vegetable crops.
Depending on the type, cabbages can be eaten raw, put into salads, used as a side dish, or added to a vegetable stir fry.
What’s the difference between cabbages?
Cabbages vary in size, shape, texture, and color. Once you get a grip on these unique properties, identifying each cultivar could be a breeze.
To add variety to your vegetable garden, you would want to learn the differences among the most common types of cabbage available in your region.
10 Different Types of Cabbage
Cabbage is a general term for vegetables from the Brassica oleracea species of plants.
We all know what a cabbage looks like, but did you know that other vegetables are also technically “cabbages”?
Kale is a nutrient-dense leafy vegetable, and it is very cheap.
Sometimes used as ornamental plants, kale has ruffle-margined, rosette-forming, loose leaves that come in blue, green, light green, green red, or purple colors.
The main stem of kale can reach a length of two feet, but farmers can harvest the entire rosette before then.
Kale leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. It is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, B6, calcium, and iron.
The leaves of kale are chewy, dry, crunchy, and have a strong and earthy taste. You might want to consider cooking it to make it taste better.
The white cabbage is inexpensive, and it is the most common and readily available type.
Sometimes called cannonball cabbage, its round head has densely-packed leaves that lighten from green or pale green on the outside to white on the inside.
Before farmers harvest white cabbage from the field, it has outer leaves that are dark green.
Raw white cabbage is chewy and crunchy with a slightly bitter taste. In contrast, perfectly cooked white cabbage is soft, aromatic, and sweet.
Be careful not to overcook white cabbage because, if you do, you will have an unappetizing mushy vegetable.
Occasionally, you will come across a cabbage that looks like someone pressed it down. A flat cabbage is a type of white cabbage called the Jaroma cabbage.
Jaroma cabbages resemble the densely-packed head of white cabbage but are usually flat. It’s like the farmers grew each cabbage head inside a box, which formed its shape.
The savoy cabbage is a winter cabbage that is also round like the white cabbage, but it has a very different texture.
It is a loose-leaf, wrinkled green cabbage that retains its firmness and texture after cooking.
However, you can expect the savoy cabbage to spoil a bit faster than white cabbage because of its loose leaves that admit more moisture.
Savoy cabbages provide dietary fiber, folate, potassium, thiamin, manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium, and vitamins A, K, C, and B6.
Because it is vulnerable to clubroot disease, caterpillars, and pigeons, savoy cabbage can be challenging to grow and cost much more than white cabbage.
Another green cabbage that has densely-packed leaves in its head is the pointed cabbage.
People have other names for the pointed cabbage—hearted, sweetheart, or Hispi cabbage. It usually is sweeter and more tender than other cabbage varieties.
You can use pointed cabbage in any manner as you would use a white cabbage. They both have the same texture, but the pointy cabbage is much sweeter when cooked.
The red cabbage has dark red or purple leaves that change colors when there is too much acidity in the soil.
Red cabbage contains a dye that you can use as a pH indicator. This is why it turns deep pink when drizzled with some lemon juice on a salad plate.
Do not mistake the red cabbage for the January King cabbage, though.
The January King is another winter cabbage with hues of green red or purple leaves. It is a variety crossed between the Savoy cabbage and the white cabbage.
Europeans also call Kohlrabi the German turnip, but it does not belong to the family of turnips. It is a low-growing plant with a stout stem that makes it closely related to the wild cabbage.
Both the leaves and stem are edible, and you can prepare them for raw or cooked meals. Its stout stem tastes like the stems of broccoli and cauliflower.
Brussels sprout vegetables are miniature round cabbages that bud from the stems of the plant.
Many dislike its bitter green leaves but improving its taste is only a matter of preparation. Some will advise against eating raw brussels sprouts, but it is possible.
Raw brussels sprouts are somewhat difficult to digest. That is why you better cook them or consume them raw in small amounts.
Romanesco is an edible chartreuse (yellow-green) flower bud similar to broccoli and cauliflower.
It has become popular in the culinary setting and has grown more popular because of its fractal geometric shape.
Romanesco has a delicate, nutty flavor and a firmer texture compared to cauliflower. Where a broccoli head resembles a bonsai tree, the Romanesco head resembles a green pine cone.
Cauliflower and Broccoli
Most of us know the appearance of cauliflower and broccoli.
Like the Romanesco, they have edible florets and stalks you can eat with salads, stir-fried, or steamed. They have large, deep green leaves.
Cauliflower is rich in many vitamins, essential minerals, and mustard oils, which can work against bacteria and free radicals.
Additionally, broccoli contains vitamin C, calcium, carotene, and magnesium. Many of us prefer broccoli over other types of cabbage because it tastes like asparagus.
That is why some people call it the asparagus cabbage.
Other Popular Cabbage-Like Vegetables
The Napa cabbage or Chinese cabbage, the bok choy, and the Swiss chard are some vegetables that can replace cabbages from the Oleracea group.
Chinese cabbage has densely-packed leaves in a cylindrical shape, while bok choy looks more like mustard.
All these vegetables come from other plant groups. Some are closely related to cabbages, while others belong to entirely different plant families.
The Swiss chard belongs to the family of beets.
What is the best type of Cabbage?
Choosing the best type of cabbage will significantly depend on preparation techniques.
It would be best to pick flat leaves from densely packed cabbage heads for preparing cabbage rolls or stuffed cabbage.
Most of the vegetables in this list are great for stir fry and steaming applications. For appetizing visual aesthetics, however, go for the red cabbage and the January King.
You can divide the cabbage family into several distinctive groups for easier identification.
The most popular groups are kale, edible inflorescences, cabbages, sprouts, kohlrabi, and Chinese cabbage.
Kale belongs to the same group as collards and borecoles.
Broccoli, cauliflower, Romanesco, broccoflower, and calabrese all belong to edible inflorescences.
The primary cabbage subgroup holds white, Jaroma, Savoy, pointed, and red cabbages.
Although we also call them cabbages, bok choy or Chinese cabbage belong to a different species.
With this info in mind, you can never go wrong about which cabbage to choose for your recipes.