Cabbages have been cultivated for millennia. They all come from the same plant species: the Brassica oleracea or Crucifera. Their cultivation is particularly widespread in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea.
There are many types of cabbages and due to their versatility, they are widely used in Italian cuisine. They can be eaten raw or cooked. In the past cabbage was a real source of health and nutrition, thanks to the high content of Vitamin C and to their important anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Do you know what is the difference between cabbages, broccoli and Savoy cabbages? We can’t give you an exact answer, but we will give you some information about them. The difference among these vegetables is only in the semantics, and it is related to their flavour.
Cabbage, broccoli and Savoy all come from the same plant species, thus are all types of cabbage. Savoy and broccoli are cabbages too!
The origin of the name “cabbage” took its roots from the research of Theodor Caruel, who used the Celtic word bresic (that meant cabbage) to identify many varieties of cabbage, such as the Savoy.
Which are the varieties of cabbage that are available on the market?
All the varieties of cabbage with details and curiosities
We use the word “cabbage” to identify many varieties of cabbage, including cauliflower, red cabbage, Lacinato kale also called black cabbage, Roman cauliflower, the headed cabbage (that ferments to prepare sauerkraut), Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, Savoy cabbage and kale cabbage. Specifically, each one has its own peculiarity and can be prepared in many different ways. Each Italian region has its own traditional recipes with cabbages that will exalt their flavour.
- Roman cauliflower
- Headed cabbage, used for sauerkraut preparation
- Chinese cabbage
- Brussels sprouts
- Savoy cabbage
- Kale or leaf cabbage
The Roman cauliflower, also known as Romanesque cauliflower or simply Romanesco, is very well known for its natural approximation of a fractal. It is bright green in colour and its flavour is delicate and nutty. This cabbage is very rich in antioxidants and vitamin C.
The headed cabbage is the most widely used variety in cooking. Due to its satiating power, it can be also eaten raw as an ingredient in your salad.
There are two kinds of headed cabbage: the white one and the purple one (also known as red cabbage). Once fermented and finely chopped, you can use the white cabbage to prepare sauerkraut, the traditional German side-dish that accompanies sausages and meat. 100gr of drained sauerkraut has 24 cal.
The Brussels sprout is a member of the cabbage plant species. They grow with a globular shape and look like miniature cabbages. This variety comes from Belgium and it is usually steamed and seasoned with butter and lemon. It is one of the most nutritious varieties of cabbage, because they contain around 4% of proteins and sugar, 5% of fiber and also a high percentage of vitamin A and vitamin C.
The kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea Gongylodes Group) also called the German turnip differs from the other varieties of cabbage, even if it is from the same species. In Italy it is also called “testa” (head) because of its interesting shape: the kohlrabi has a white bulbous that surrounds its stems.
The bulbous kohlrabi stem is eaten cooked or raw, cut into julienne strips for salads and slaws, or cut into slices for Carpaccio.
The most common cabbage is cauliflower, the typical Winter vegetable with its flower shape. In Italy there are several local varieties of cabbage, such as the Giant cauliflower of Naples, the late cauliflower of Fano, the Romaneque cauliflower and the Purple cauliflower of Catania.
This variety, composed mainly by water, is really satiating thanks to its low caloric content. The cauliflower-based dishes are the best for those who suffer from diabetes but also for those who want a healthy diet with low caloric vegetables. In Italian cuisine, cauliflower is always present. Cauliflower-based dishes are prepared soups, poured soups, fritters, vegetable rolls, pasta, salads and other recipes, are prepared all through Winter in all Italian homes.
The Savoy cabbage is one of the most loved Winter vegetables. Due to its versatility, it has been used for decades in typical gastronomic preparations. It can be eaten raw or cooked, as a side-dish or as main dish such as meat-filled cabbage rolls, baked preparations or soups. A secret is to combine Savoy cabbage with curcuma: the perfect marriage!
Kale or black cabbage is a dark green Winter vegetable that is rich in vitamins, dietary elements and potassium. This hardy and light vegetable is used in Tuscan cuisine especially for the preparation of ribollita, the typical dish prepared with breadcrumbs, legumes and vegetable-based soup. The black cabbage and beans together are the fundamental ingredients for the recipe of ribollita, known to be an old minestrone.
Chinese cabbage is one of the widespread varieties in the East. This typical Chinese vegetable is known as the Bok Choy, that literally means “white vegetable”. It is characterized by its smooth, dark green leaf blades, that can be cooked directly in the pan with a little garlic. It can be eaten raw, but is perfect to prepare fish balls, made with shrimp or with white fish such as sea bass.
What is the difference between turnips and turnip greens?
So similar but so different. They all come from the same plant species, the Cruciferae – Brassicaceae, but kohlrabi, turnip and turnip greens are very different from each other. Kohlrabi is different for its shape and essence. Turnip green is a bushy vegetable with leaves that is completely different from the turnip; starting from the way they are eaten. The turnip greens cannot be eaten raw, but cooked in various ways, including sautéing, grilling, or roasting.
The production and the consumption of the turnip greens is widespread in Apulia, Campania and Lazio. In Apulia, its most famous use is in "orecchiette ". In Campania, farmers also cultivate rapini, produced with the small, edible yellow flowers blooming among the buds of turnip greens.
Cabbage and Savoy: two names, a single vegetable!
Is there any difference between a cabbage and a Savoy? Maybe: we know that they come from the same botanical family, but it isn’t easy to understand in which way they are different. Cabbage and Savoy cabbage are different for their size and flavour, but the similar for the properties and characteristics they have. We have to pay attention when we speak about Savoy cabbage, because it can also be called with the only word “Savoy”. Is it clear now? There are two names for the same vegetable: the Savoy cabbage or simply Savoy.
Differences between cabbage, broccoli and broccolini?
There are some differences in the characteristics between cabbage and broccoli, although they come from the same species. Some types of cabbage have edible leaves, but of the broccoli, we can only eat the unripened inflorescences . Among the varieties of broccoli, there are the Roman broccoli, the Venetian broccoli and the Mugnolo broccoli, typical from Salento. The broccolini is a specific variety of cabbage, which is a cross between the common broccoli and the Chinese broccoli.
Properties, benefits, calories and characteristics of cabbage and broccoli.
The Greeks and the Romans claimed medical usages for cabbage including relief from vitamin deficiency, fiber deficiency or other diseases. Before banquets, they would eat some raw cabbage pieces to stimulate and improve digestion. Eating raw cabbage preserves the vitamin C properties and the ant-inflammatory features, useful to contrast gastritis. Europeans used to eat cabbage and citrus’s during their sea-crossing to America to combat diseases provoked by the deficiency of Vitamin C.
From a medical point of view, all the Brassicae vegetables are very important for our health. Cabbage is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-flu properties, and also for their richness in iron, calcium and fiber that improve the immune system. They also have antioxidant and anti-tumor properties that improve the heart function.
The caloric intake among the cabbage varieties is almost the same: 100gr of headed cabbage has 25cal, while 100gr of boiled or cooked cauliflower has 40cal. The average weight of both – a cabbage and a cauliflower- is around 400gr.
Let’s start cooking: all the use in cooking of cabbage!
Not all of us love cabbage. To get a child or a teen to eat cauliflower can be a challenge, but there are many recipes to get younger people to eat cabbage, Savoy cabbage and cauliflower. You know that when you cook cabbage, they produce an “annoying” smell, that is caused by the sulphur they contain. Here are some ideas how to cook cabbage in unusual and creative ways!
- Red cabbage slaw: this variety is also good to be eaten raw, cut in strips and seasoned with carrots and lemon.
- Black kale potatoes gnocchi with Taleggio cheese: the intense and soft bitterish flavour of the black kale is perfect if combined with the sweet and aromatic flavour of Taleggio cheese. A typical Winter dish to taste!
- Red cabbage pureed soup: nice to the eye, good and healthy. It has everything, missing nothing! Taste it with some bacon bits and pistachio nuts, or with potatoes and vegetable soup.
- Meat-filled Savoy cabbage rolls are a perfect second dish for Christmas lunches and dinners. Have you ever tasted them?
- Cauliflower and curcuma balls: as said before, cabbage and curcuma is a perfect marriage!
Can the cabbage be eaten raw?
Cabbage is very healthy, but pay attention to how you cook them, the portions and how often you eat them. You can eat raw cabbage, but it depends on how much you want to eat. Cabbage is considered to be a goitrogenic food, that interferes with the iodine intake in the thyroid gland, that produces goitrin. Cooked cabbage does not have this contraindication because cooking deactivates the goitrin. So, let’s prepare the cabbage in all the cooking ways you like. Whoever eats cooked cabbage assumes a healthy dose of vitamin C, equal to a whole orange. Among other things, you can eat cabbage when you suffer from gastritis and do not know what to eat. They are so rich in fiber that will help your digestion. The most important tip is not to exaggerate and to avoid fritters and seasonings like butter.
How to clean cabbage
To clean cabbage is very easy: first of all, you have to cut along the stem and discard it, then you have to remove the leaves if you want to cook without them, or on the contrary do not remove them if you want to cook your cauliflower whole. Wash it under running water and remove the dirt and the tiny insects if there are any. Immerse the cauliflower into a bowl of cold water, adding lemon drops and some vinegar.
When you cook the headed cabbage, you must remove the thick outer leaves before, and then you have to wash it under cold, running water.
Then, for both, you have to put the florets and the leaves on a thick towel to dry them. Now you can cut them in the pieces you prefer.
Do you have a lot of cabbage? Freeze them!
It can happen to have to store cabbage in your fridge. How long can you keep them in your kitchen? It depends on the condition of the cabbage: if it is fresh and well protected, you can keep it up two weeks. If you want to freeze it, you must wash and clean it. Then cut it discarding the inedible parts. Once ready, blanch your cabbage for some minutes and then let it cool and dry it. Pack your cabbage in a freezer food pack. You can keep it in your freezer for up to 6 months.
That’s the same for Savoy cabbage and headed cabbage. After some time, you can cook your frozen cabbage as you wish, after steaming it for 90 seconds or cooking in a pressure cooker.