Appreciating Cabbage

Cabbage
Cabbagegruntzooki/Flickr

We don't think about cabbage much, but it's all around us. It's in coleslaw, potstickers, kimchi, borscht, sauerkraut—an endless list of dishes. It'd be hard to imagine someone asking for a big slice of fresh cabbage, but rarely does a week go by when you don't eat the vegetable in some form or another.

One reason for its popularity is that cabbages can grow anywhere, in any temperature, and they require almost zero attention. Cabbage is cheap, filling, and full of vitamins, so every part of the world has its own cabbage dishes. In Russia, it's cabbage pie, cooked with hardboiled eggs and black pepper, and served with sour cream; and in Hungary, you can forget about the apple variety—there, they make their strudel with cabbage. England has its breakfast-time bubble and squeak; and Ireland takes a breather from its ardent devotion to strong-smelling boiled cabbage by barely simmering the vegetable for this bacon and cabbage soup.

If all these gut bombs are too heavy for you, just switch your attention to Asia. Cabbage can easily be stir-fried with spices in an Indian fashion, but it perhaps makes its biggest splash in Korea: cabbage kimchi is one of the most ubiquitous foods on the continent.

So why doesn't cabbage get more respect? In part, it's because of its odiferous aroma when it's boiled, and that's how most of us first encountered it as kids. Do your children a favor, then, and make sure their first cabbage experience with this all-purpose, adaptable vegetable is in the form of Molly Stevens's rich Savoy cabbage gratin. There is, in my opinion, no better way to cook it.

Buying Tips

Season: There are so many different varieties of cabbage that you can find them in season almost 365 days a year. Crinkly, sweet Savoy cabbages are best in early autumn, while and the colorful January King variety is ready in the middle of winter. There are spring and summer cabbages, too.

Where to find it: If you live in China, you're in luck! The Chinese grow 35 million tons of cabbage a year, compared to America's 1.1 million tons. The vegetable prefers cool weather, the hardy cabbage actually grows—and is available in supermarkets and farmers' markets—just about everywhere in the United States, even in Florida and Texas.

Price: Cabbage has almost always sold for around a dollar a pound and unless there's some kind of apocalypse, it'll probably remain at this price forever.

Amanda Cohen is the chef and owner of Dirt Candy, a vegetarian restaurant in New York City.