Cabbages are one of the most readily available vegetables globally. Cabbages come in several varieties, the common ones being red (purple), pale green (off-white) and green.
Commonly overlooked, this leafy, cruciferous vegetable is not only pocket friendly, but is also choke full of nutrients.
Cabbages are packed with vitamin C, K, dietary fiber, magnesium and numerous antioxidants.
Frequent consumption of this watery and leafy vegetable will nourish your body by providing the various nutritive benefits.
The fermented versions of cabbage such as kimchi, contain probiotics which keep your gut healthy.
Knowing how to use, prepare and store cabbage can make a great difference in retaining optimal flavors without destroying any nutrients. Cabbage can be consumed raw or cooked.
Like with other vegetables, prolonged cooking can destroy some of the vitamins, thus it is imperative to minimize the amount of heat and time spent cooking cabbages.
How to Pick Cabbage
When picking cabbage, whether garden-grown or store bought, there are a few pointers to guide your eyesight on which cabbage to pick.
- The cabbage should be firm to the touch.
- The leaves should be intact. Check whether the leaves are firmly attached onto the cabbage head. The outer leaves should also be present and green, as they help in moisture retention.
- Any signs of wilting means the cabbage is old and should be avoided.
- Look out for bruising on the leaves and head.
- Avoid cabbages with any discolored or blackened leaves as they have a short shelf life.
How to Use Cabbages
There are countless ways in which you can use cabbage. Some of the ways include:
- In salads such as coleslaw. It is shredded or finely chopped and combined with other ingredients such as carrots before being mixed with mayonnaise. Both the red and pale green cabbages are commonly used in coleslaw.
- In recipes such as steamed or savory stuffed cabbage leaves, whereby the outer leaves are stuffed with various ingredients.
- In stews.
- In making vegetable juices. Raw cabbage juice is highly revered by health enthusiasts who swear by its healing power, especially in soothing stomach ulcers.
- In stir-fries and sautéed meals. For a simple sautéed cabbage, add oil to the pan. Toss the cabbage and some seasoning in hot oil for a few minutes and add some green onions which help to absorb the strong smell of cabbage.
- As an accompaniment, either blanched, pan-fried or as steamed cabbage wedges topped with hot sauce.
- In recipes such as braised red cabbage.
- Fermented cabbage such as kimchi and sauerkraut which are highly valued as probiotics.
Besides knowing how to use cabbages, being aware of their shelf life is also crucial. Being aware of how long they last helps to determine the best storage methods.
A few tips which come in handy before storing cabbage:
- Retain all the outer leaves of the cabbage. They prevent the cabbage from drying out which hastens their spoilage.
- For cut cabbage, sprinkle the edges with water or vegetable oil to prevent wilting.
- Cabbage should only be cleaned prior to being cooked or prepared. Washing the cabbage before storing will exacerbate the rotting process as the outer leaves will turn black.
How Best to Store Cabbage
Raw, whole cabbages are best stored in cool areas such as the refrigerator. The most effective way is by wrapping the entire cabbage in cling film or putting it in a plastic bag. This guarantees moisture retention thus prolonging the shelf life of the cabbage.
Leaving the cabbage unwrapped leads to loss of moisture since the refrigerator is full of dry air. In case the cabbage is muddy or dirty, wipe the dirt off without washing the cabbage.
Remove any torn or bruised leaves to prevent other leaves from rotting as well.
The shelf life of raw, cut cabbages can be prolonged by freezing or refrigerating. For shredded cabbage, place them in Ziploc bags or airtight containers and freeze for future use.
In case you need to use in the near future, there is no need to freeze as the produce section of the refrigerator will suffice.
For half a cabbage, wrap the entire half in cling film or plastic bag tightly to prevent any air or moisture as this will cause oxidation.
Refrigerated cabbage is best used within a few days to minimize the loss of flavor.
Blanching and Freezing
Blanching the shredded cabbage is the most preferred method of prolonging its shelf life.
Blanching mitigates rotting. Once you blanch, drain and pat dry before putting in Ziploc bags and freeze.
This method can help preserve the cabbage for a whole year before usage.
An ancient method used to increase the shelf life of food items is drying. Extracting moisture mitigates mold formation and rotting through enzyme reactions.
A dehydrator will come in handy as it does the work for you within a few hours. Slice or chop the cabbage and place them onto trays.
Dehydration can take a maximum of 12 hours which leaves the pieces brittle.
Store the dried pieces in airtight containers where no moisture or air can penetrate.
Another effective way of storing cabbage is fermentation. Not only will fermentation prolong the shelf life, it will also enhance the flavor of cabbage.
Fermenting cabbage involves a simple process of soaking chopped or whole cabbage in a brine solution (highly concentrated salt or vinegar solution). The brine imparts a deep, salty flavor to the cabbage.
The mixture is placed into airtight containers or special fermenting containers and covered with heavy items on top to prevent any contact with air or impurities.
You can ferment the cabbage on its own or add peppers and onions, a tradition which is common among Asians.
Fermentation normally takes a few days or months depending on one’s preference.
Any fermented food item is valuable for providing probiotics. Probiotics nourish our bodies with gut-friendly bacteria which maintain a healthy gut or digestive system.
Use of a Root Cellar
If you are lucky enough to own a root cellar, storing food items and other garden produce becomes a walk in the park.
A root cellar is a partial or full underground storage structure. These structures are common in homesteads, farm houses or among people who live in the countryside.
A root cellar provides a controlled and cool temperature, which is suitable for storage.
Another similar technique for storing food items is to dig a small hole, about 2 feet deep within your compound. You then arrange straws around the hole and place cabbages inside, before covering it with more straws.
This technique is popular in areas which experience winter, since it is commonly done during autumn and winter. The low temperatures prolong the shelf life for a few months.
How to Tell a Cabbage That Is Past the Eat By Date
You can easily identify a cabbage that is past consumption in simple ways:
Wilting of Leaves
A shriveled cabbage which lacks moisture indicates a substantial amount of spoilage. Such a cabbage lacks flavor and is best discarded.
A spoiled cabbage will emit a strong, pungent smell which makes it unpalatable.
Discolouration on Leaves, Flesh and Edges
Look out for parts which have turned black. You can cut them off and use the remaining bit or discard the entire cabbage if it has fully become discolored.
The humble cabbage is a versatile and nutritious vegetable to stock at home. The above numerous ways of using and storing cabbage can save you frequent visits to the garden or grocery store.