Recipes From the Cabbage Patch
Early spring vegetables from the garden’s first fruits let us know spring has arrived. We may experience a few cold snaps before spring officially breaks through, but early produce has a persistence to admire.
One of the season’s unsung heroes, cabbage has long been underestimated. Sailors ate fermented cabbage, or sauerkraut, in the 17th and 18th centuries to prevent scurvy on long voyages. Romans and Egyptians also heralded the medicinal properties of cabbage, using it to dress battle wounds.
Cabbage not only tolerates a frost – it improves its flavor. As a cold weather crop, this vegetable gives your body the vitamin C it needs to boost your immune system this winter. Sulforaphane, a chemical found in cabbage, broccoli and other related vegetables, reduces the risk of cancer. And, as the Romans suspected, cabbage contains anti-inflammatory properties.
We’re probably most familiar with green cabbage, but red cabbage with its smooth, purplish leaves has high levels of vitamins A and C. Another variety, savoy cabbage, has crinkled, darker green leaves, a mild earthy flavor, and can be cooked as you would regular cabbage or sautéed like kale and other greens.
When shopping for cabbage, choose firm heads that aren’t split, damaged or wilted. You can refrigerate raw cabbage in plastic wrap or containers for weeks. To store for months, blanch cabbage in boiling water and place in an airtight plastic bag in the freezer. Use the frozen cabbage in stir-fries or soups – any recipe that calls for cooked cabbage. (Probably not coleslaw or fresh cabbage recipes, however.)
We’ve gathered a few recipes below to help you get the best from those first heads of cabbage. Cabbage tastes delicious when cooked – with the traditional pairing of corned beef, a St. Patrick’s Day favorite; in a stir-fry with other spring vegetables; or in a classic cabbage rolls recipe, which I have lightened up with ground turkey: