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All Cabbages Great & Small

When talking about cabbages, it’s necessary to mention both types as
they’re quite interwoven in both their history and the way they’ve evolved into our cuisine.
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What’s the difference between a European cabbage and a Chinese one?

When talking about cabbages, it’s necessary to mention both types as
they’re quite interwoven in both their history and the way they’ve evolved into our cuisine.

Historically, non-heading species of cabbage like pak choi and mustard have been cultivated in Northern China as far back as 4000 years ago while the various tribes of Europe harvested more leafy types of kale and cabbage from 3000 years ago. It wasn’t until the 14th century in England that the first round headed types, that you know today, were finally bred.

Whilst being grown as an edible plant, cabbage was always highly regarded for its beneficial qualities for treating scurvy on ships, relieving gout and negating the effects of ingesting poisonous mushrooms. Both Ancient Egyptians and Romans ate large amounts of cabbage the night before drinking binges which allowed them to drink even more. Some even advised the use of cabbage-eaters urine in which to wash their infants! Can't imagine that would go down so well these days.....

                       Brassica oleracea

The word cabbage is an anglicised form of the French word caboche meaning head but, botanically, the scientific name Brassica oleracea means cabbage-like plants that are grown for their edible leaves, stems or flowers.
Vegetables like cabbage, collard, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli and Brussels sprouts all share this same name.
The Chinese cabbage Brassica chinensis also fits snugly into this group and they’re all very closely related to their first cousins the Brassica rapa family which includes turnips, mustard, pack choi and swedes to name a few.

Styles of Cabbage – Cannonball, Chinese, Savoy

The Cannonball cabbage is the most popular type worldwide with leaves that are wrapped tightly over one another in a dense compact fashion. Both green and red types are perfect for shredding into coleslaw, fermented, boiled, stuffed and baked or braised.
The Chinese cabbage, also known as Wong Bok or the Napa cabbage, has an upright barrel shape and is very popular in Asian style cuisine.
The Savoy cabbage has more textured rumpled leaves than a cannonball type and the leaves are more loosely layered.

Did you know?

China is the largest producer of cabbage followed by India and Russia with Russia being the world’s largest consumer per capita. They must love their cabbage soup.
A handy tip to stop red cabbage turning blue/grey as its cooks, is to add some form of acid to the cooking water, like lemon juice or vinegar, as these stop the colour pigments breaking down.
A popular dish in Eastern Europe is to make parcels by wrapping wilted cabbage leaves round a filling of spiced mince and rice and baking them. Yum!

What are Sauerkraut and Kimchi?

Sauerkraut is a German word that means sour cabbage. It’s finely cut raw cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria and has a distinctive sour flavour with a long shelf even if not refrigerated.

Click here to visit our tutorial on making Sauerkraut 

Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made from fermenting salted and spiced vegetables including cabbage. The flavour will vary depending on the length of fermentation and the amount of salt, sugar and spices used. The predominant taste is sour but it’s spicier than sauerkraut.
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