Horticultural selection within the species Brassica oleracea (wild cabbage) has led to the development of hundreds of cultivars that are now organized into eight major groups of vegetables that are hardly recognizable as being members of a single species. They are: cabbage (Capitata Group), cauliflower (Botrytis Group), kale and collards (Acephala Group), kohlrabi (Gongylodes Group), brussels sprouts (Gemmifera Group), Chinese broccoli (Alboglabra Group), broccoli (Italica Group) and Tronchuda.
Cabbage (and other members of the genus Brassica) contain very high levels of antioxidant and anticancer compounds. Dithioltiones and glucosinolates enhance antioxidant and detoxification effects in the body. Isothiocyanates inhibit tumor growth. Coumarins block cancer causing compounds. Various phenols in cabbage prevent the formation of carcinogens and enhance detoxification enzymes. (The Romans ate cabbage to cure hangovers.) The anti-cancer properties of cabbage are so well-established that the American Cancer Society recommends that Americans increase their intake of cabbage and other crucifer crops. Other research has suggested that the compounds in cabbage and other crucifers can protect the eyes against macular degeneration.
It is a Chinese cabbage with dark green crinkled, spinach-like leaves and white crunchy stems; leaves are held together loosely. Chinese cabbages include the slightly crinkled Napa, the tall Michihli (also called celery cabbage), the flat cabbage, the flowering white cabbage, Pe-tsai, Tai-sai, Lei-choi, and Pakchoi, also known as bok choy.
Notes: Both the stalks and leaves can be used, raw, or cooked. It has a sweet, mild celery taste. It's usually stir-fried with other ingredients, but it can also be steamed or sautéed and served as a side dish. Small heads of bok choy are called baby bok choy (left), and they're more tender than the larger variety. Of the baby bok choys, bok choy sum = Canton bok choy has small yellow flowers (sum is the Chinese word for flower), while Shanghai bok choy is a uniform light green, doesn't have flowers, and isn't as sweet.
Substitutes: Chinese broccoli OR yau choy OR napa cabbage (for stir-frying only; don't boil) OR broccoli OR Swiss chard OR celery (especially in stir-fry dishes) OR collard greens OR beet greens.
Notes: These look like small cabbages, and they're most often boiled or steamed and served as a side dish. They have a rather strong flavor, so it's best not to pair them with anything that's delicately flavored. They don't store well, so use them within a day or two after purchasing.
Substitutes: broccoli flowerets (cooks more quickly)
Also called ornamental kale = flowering cabbage = flowering cole
Notes: This is a beautiful cabbage used more often as a garnish than as a vegetable. Substitutes: kale (tastier, but not as pretty) OR collard greens (tastier, but not as pretty)
This is the most common variety of cabbage types. It's pale green in color and the leaves are usually tightly compacted.
Notes: Cabbage is quite versatile. It is used raw and cooked. You can cut it into chunks, boil it, and serve it with corned beef or other fatty meats. You can also use it to make cabbage soup, cooked leaves as wrappers for meat fillings, or shred raw ones for cole slaw. Select heavy heads of cabbage that have shiny leaves.
Equivalents: One head yields about 8 cups shredded cabbage.
Among the green cabbages, 'Grenadier' wins praise for its sweet taste and crunchy texture. 'Charmant' is an early, medium green cabbage with a bluish tint that becomes more pronounced in spring-planted crops. 'January King' is extra cold-hardy for late harvest.
Substitutes: red cabbage (This can discolor other foods if combined with them in a salad or cooked with them, but it tastes just like green cabbage.) OR napa cabbage (milder flavor and more delicate texture) OR savoy cabbage (great in slaws)
Pronunciation: kohl-RAHB-ee or kohl-RAH-bee
Notes: A kohlrabi resembles a turnip, only it's sweeter and more delicately flavored. It's light green and sometimes sold with its edible greens attached. It can be eaten raw or cooked. Choose small ones, and peel before using.
Substitutes: broccoli stems OR celeriac (especially in remoulades) OR turnips OR parsnips
Nappa cabbage = celery cabbage = Chinese celery cabbage = Peking cabbage = Chinese cabbage = wong bok = petsai = shantung cabbage = hakusai = Chinese leaf (leaves) = michihli
Chinese cabbage with pale green crinkled leaves, elongated compact shape and white stems.
Notes: Has a slightly sweet taste and can be eaten raw, steamed, or stir-fried. Like bok choy, napa cabbage is a common ingredient in Asian stir-fries. It can also be used as a milder and more delicate alternative to green cabbage in slaws and other recipes. Substitutes: bok choy OR cabbage (stronger flavor, takes longer to cook) OR savoy cabbage (stronger flavor, takes longer to cook).
Substitutes: bok choy OR cabbage (stronger flavor, takes longer to cook) OR savoy cabbage (stronger flavor, takes longer to cook)
A special cabbage dark purple red in color. It's similar in taste to the green cabbage, but with coarser leaves.
Red cabbage is often cooked or pickled, but is also good in slaws and salads, or as a holder for dips.
Equivalents: One head yields about 8 cups shredded cabbage.
Notes: Red cabbage tastes just like green cabbage, so your choice between them depends largely on which color you prefer. One problem with red cabbage, though, is that the color tends to bleed and discolor surrounding foods. Select heavy heads of cabbage that have shiny leaves. Among the varieties available in the West are 'Meteor' (deep purple, 7- to 10-inch-diameter heads), 'Red Rodan' (8- to 10-inch heads), 'Ruby Ball' (sweet, 3- to 4-pound heads), and 'Scarlet O'Hara' (burgundy red heads).
Substitutes: green cabbage (This tastes just like red cabbage.) OR napa cabbage (milder flavor, more delicate texture) OR savoy cabbage (great in slaws)
Brassica oleracia var. sabauda
Notes: Savoy cabbage has green-yellow, crinkled leaves. It is less compact than the green cabbage, and with a milder flavor. It can often be used in place of green cabbage, and your dish will probably be the better for it. It is available year-round.
Usage: Salads, specialty recipes, Italian recipes. The cabbage is shredded, leaves are used as a garnish, or they are steamed or boiled.
Selection: Good quality Savoy cabbage will be semi-solid, slightly cone-shaped and fairly heavy in relation to size. Even green coloring means good flavor and vitamin content. Fairly thick and pliable leaves will be more tender and juicy. For salad or slaw, many growers prefer savoy types such as 'Salarite' and 'Savonarch'. These plants get big, spreading up to 2 feet, and producing heads weighing 3 to 5 pounds each. A more compact choice is 'Promasa', a baby savoy that yields heads weighing 1 1/2 to 2 pounds. One of the most cold-hardy kinds is 'Wivoy'.
Avoid: Avoid cabbage that has thin, wilted leaves which are a sign of old product. Light-colored heads that are very solid mean all core and less taste. Cracked heads mean poor quality from growing conditions.
Substitutes: green cabbage (This has a stronger flavor and isn't as tender as savoy cabbage.) OR napa cabbage (This has a milder flavor.)
Notes: This is just like napa cabbage, only elongated.
Substitutes: napa cabbage
Notes: Yau choy is more tender and delicately flavored than other Asian cabbages.
Substitutes: bok choy
This page compliments of Marisa Ciceran