What is Cabbage?

wiseGEEK Writer

Cabbage is a popular vegetable that is a relative to mustard greens and also to the turnip family. Its scientific name is Brassica oleracea, and within this group there are two main varieties: early and late. Early cabbage reaches maturity in just over 40 days and has a small, tight head, while the late variant takes longer to grow — almost 90 days — and has a much larger head. In general, only the center section — the head — is eaten.

Cabbage is popularly eaten raw with a sweetened dressing.
Cabbage is popularly eaten raw with a sweetened dressing.

Cabbage is used not just in foods but has been touted for its medicinal properties. Early Europeans wrapped its leaves around inflamed areas, and this may have been, in part, medically sound. The leaves of the plant do contain glutamine, which has been shown to be an effective anti-inflammatory substance. In fact, in modern medicine, a derivative from the vegetable called IC3 may be used to treat growths that occur in the head and neck caused by some variants of papillomavirus.

Cabbage is frequently used to make soup.
Cabbage is frequently used to make soup.

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When served raw, cabbage is crunchy and sweet. Its red and green (sometimes called yellow) varieties are visually appealing, and salads made of both types are definitely aesthetically pleasing. A common use of the raw vegetable is in coleslaw salad, which combines mayonnaise, sometimes apple cider vinegar, thin slices of cabbage and often grated carrot.

When shredded and combined with apple cider vinegar and mayonnaise, cabbage can make a delicious coleslaw.
When shredded and combined with apple cider vinegar and mayonnaise, cabbage can make a delicious coleslaw.

Others use cabbage in cooking, a tradition existing in many parts of Europe. It is added to soups and stews, or the leaves can be wrapped around meat, producing a variety of stuffed leaf dishes. Many Asian cultures and European countries make varieties of pickled cabbage. It’s the base of the ever-popular sauerkraut, and used in Korean kimchi. Alternately you can use sliced leaves as a substitute for iceberg lettuce because it is nutritionally superior and still provides a lot of crunch.

From a nutritional standpoint, this vegetable is best used to get extra vitamin C. A serving, about 3.5 ounces (100 grams), will give you 61% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C. It also contains about 10% of the RDA for vitamin B6, and 13% of the RDA of folate. Furthermore, it contains virtually no fat, and a single raw serving has a scant 24 calories.

Some people skip this leafy vegetable because it can exhibit a very strong odor when it’s cooking. Others avoid it because it tends to be a flatulence producing food. You can’t really offset cooking odor, but you can reduce any intestinal upset by using products like Beano® before you consume cabbage. Regular consumption of the vegetable may also reduce intestinal upset.

Sauerkraut is made from cabbage.
Sauerkraut is made from cabbage.

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Discussion Comments


For those who like to garden, and plant their own vegetable, cabbage, as well as the rest of the cabbage family such as cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli etc, benefit from aromatic plants such as sage, rosemary and dill. Therefore it is good to plant them together to help repel insects and disease.

Strawberries and tomatoes, however, are not good partners with cabbage, therefore they should not be planted in close proximity.

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