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CABBAGES

Listed below are some cabbage types used in Finnish cooking and in the recipes of this site.

See also:



White cabbage
(Brassica oleracea var. capitata f. alba)

White cabbage

This type of cabbage forms a large, tight head with thick, smooth leaves. The colour of the cabbage can range from ivory white to yellowy green. White cabbage is held in high esteem especially in central, eastern and northern Europe where it is used in a multitude of dishes.

White cabbage may be eaten raw, shredded in salads, or cooked, boiled or braised, in soups, stews etc. It is also used to make sauerkraut. Cabbage casserole and stuffed cabbage rolls are favourite cabbage dishes in Finland.

 
Red cabbage
(Brassica oleracea var. capitata f. rubra)

Red cabbage

Otherwise similar to white cabbage, red cabbage has a stronger flavour. Its leaves are tinted with deep bluish or brownish red. To preserve the beautiful colour during cooking, some acid ingredient, like lemon juice or vinegar, is usually added to red cabbage dishes.

Red cabbage is used much in the same way as white cabbage, either raw in salads or braised in stews and casserole dishes.

See a recipe for Finnish lingonberry and red cabbage salad.


Savoy cabbage
(Brassica oleracea var. sabauda)

Savoy cabbage

A type of cabbage forming a loose head with crisp, crinkly leaves. The flavour of Savoy cabbage is milder than that of white or red cabbage, slightly reminiscent of Brussels sprout (see below).

Savoy cabbage may be used in salads, soups and stews or the leaves can be stuffed and baked in oven.

Chinese cabbage
(Brassica rapa var. pekinensis)

Chinese cabbage

Also called celery cabbage, napa and pe-tsai, this type of Chinese cabbage forms a large, elongated head resembling romaine lettuce in shape. The long and delicate, irregularly serrated leaves are attached to white stalks.

Chinese cabbage has a very crisp and light texture, and a more subtle, refreshing flavour compared to the other cabbage varieties. It may be added to soups, stews and stir-fries. It may also be served raw, shredded in salads.


Cauliflower
(Brassica oleracea var. botrytis)

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is cultivated for its edible flower head, consisting of numerous undeveloped, compressed flower buds. The white head is surrounded by green leaves, protecting it from direct sunlight. The small, tender inner leaves can be eaten along with the flower head.

Cauliflower can simply be boiled or steamed, whole or broken into florets, or it can be added to soups, stews, purees, gratins and pasta dishes. It can also be eaten raw, served with dipping sauce or added to salads. Cauliflower should be consumed while young, firm and creamy white. The flower heads of older plants tend to become spongy and yellow.

There are numerous varieties of cauliflower varying, for example, in colour, one among them the light-green Romanesco cauliflower/broccoli, pictured below.

Romanesco cauliflower

Broccoli
(Brassica oleracea var. italica)

Broccoli

The sturdy stem of broccoli consists of thick, firm stalks ending in large flower heads surrounded with small leaves. The colour of the vegetable may vary from deep green with green or purple flower buds, to white or purple. Broccoli is very perishable, and should be used before the green flower buds start to open or turn yellow.

Broccoli may be eaten raw or cooked. It can be briefly boiled whole or separated into stems and florets (and leaves). If the stems are very fibrous, they can be peeled similarly to asparagus before cooking. Prepared like cauliflower, broccoli can be served as a side dish. It can also be added to vegetable marinades, salads, soups, stews, gratins, quiches and pasta dishes.

Slightly bitter-flavoured broccoli rabe/raab or Italian broccoli (Brassica rapa var. rapifera) resembles the true broccoli, but is a variety of turnip. It has slender green stalks topped with serrated leaves and sometimes a cluster of small flower buds.
A recent hybrid between European and Asian cabbages, broccolini (Brassica oleracea × alboglabra) is similar to broccoli rabe, but with a less bitter flavour.


Brussels sprout
(Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera)

Brussels sprouts

It is believed that Brussels sprouts were first cultivated in Belgium. Resembling miniature cabbage heads, Brussels sprouts grow attached to the leaf axils of tall and strong, upright stems. Each stem can bear 20 to 80 small heads. The heads are up to 3 to 4 centimetres in diameter.

Brussels sprouts are seldom eaten raw, though some like to eat them uncooked, thinly sliced or shredded in salads, coleslaw, etc. However, they are usually served briefly boiled, stewed or added to various casserole dishes and gratins.

Kohlrabi
(Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes)

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi has a swollen, bulbous stem, resembling the turnip. The bulb grows thin stems, ending in large, edible leaves. The colour of the bulb varies from white and pale green to purple. Young kohlrabi is small, about the size of an apple or orange, and its flesh is crisp, sweet and juicy. The older kohlrabi are larger in size, having a woody, fibrous flesh and a bland flavour.

Kohlrabi may be juiced or eaten raw, added to salads, or cooked in stews. The flavour resembles cauliflower and turnip or mild radish.


Kale
(Brassica oleracea var. acephala)

Kale

Also known as curly kale, kale resembles the original open-leaved wild cabbage, bearing separate leaf stalks instead of forming a tight head. According to the variety, the leaf stalks may be short or long, thick or thin and the leaves smooth or curly, with the colour varying from deep green to blue-green and purple.

Highly nutritious, kale has a strong, slightly bitter flavour. If frostbitten, the flavour will turn milder and sweeter. Boiling kale for a few minutes in salted water before cooking also reduces its bitterness.

Kale may be sautéed, stewed, braised, fried, etc, or added to soups, stews and numerous other dishes. Young leaves may also be eaten raw, chopped in salads or sprinkled on top of dishes as garnish. The tender leaves and the tougher stalk may be cooked separately.

Chard
(Beta vulgaris var. cicla)

Kale

Also known as Swiss chard, spinach beet and mangold, among other names, chards are varieties of the beet. They have long, meaty stalks with large, smooth or crinkly, light to dark green leaf blades. Depending on the variety, the stalks and leaf veins may be silvery white or strikingly coloured with hues of yellow, orange or red (eg rhubarb chard).

Chard has a slightly pungent, astringent flavour which is diminished with cooking. Although the plant is usually eaten cooked  —  steamed, roasted, sautéed, braised, stewed, etc  —  the leaves, especially when young, may be eaten raw. The crispy stems may be tender or tough, depending on the variety and age of the plant, and can be prepared separately from the leaves. They may be cooked and eaten similarly to celery stalks.


Asian cabbages and greens

Of the many Asian cabbage and greens varieties, a few of the most familiar to us Finns are listed below.

Bok choy Bok choy (Brassica rapa var. chinensis) is a type of Chinese cabbage with sturdy, broad white stalks with dark green, spoon-shaped leaves. The flavour of bok choy is very mild. It can be eaten cooked, boiled, stir-fried, steamed, braised, sautéed, etc. The crisp stalks take longer to cook than the tender leaves, which may also be eaten raw. Bok choy is also called by many other names, including pak choi and white cabbage.
Shanghai bok choy is a miniaturised version of bok choy that can be cooked whole because of its tender texture. Its stalks are light green in colour with darker green leaves.

Choy sum Choy sum/choi sum (Brassica rapa var. parachinensis) is a type of bok choy consisting of light green, thin stalks with yellowish-green oval leaves and tiny yellow flowers. It is also known as Chinese flowering cabbage and flowering white cabbage. When young, the plant may be used whole, otherwise the tender and sweet young flower shoots and leaves are the main part to be eaten. They can be lightly boiled or steamed, added to salads, stir-fries, etc.


Tatsoi (Brassica rapa var. narinosa) forms a rosette of sturdy, dark green round leaves that can be eaten raw or cooked. Tatsoi is also known as spinach mustard, rosette bok choy or tai goo choi, among other names. The flavour of tatsoi is stronger than that of bok choy (see above) and the leaves are tougher. Young leaves may be added raw to salads.

Mizuna and mibuna (Brassica rapa var. nipposinica) are varieties of Japanese greens. Mizuna grows a clump of long, thin stems with narrow, decoratively feathery leaves with a mild flavour. Tender, lighter green leaves may be used raw in salads, while tougher darker green ones may be added to stir-fries, stews, soups, omelettes, etc.
Mibuna grows a clump of long stems with narrow round-tipped leaves. It has a slightly stronger flavour than mizuna and can be eaten raw or cooked  —  added to salads, stir-fries, stews, soups, etc.


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