Ancient greens provide year-round nutrition

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Cabbages can be one of the most maligned vegetables to cross our tables but are also one of the most versatile.

From the brassica family, they are one of the oldest vegetables known and there are a variety grown in New Zealand including green and red, savoy and Chinese.

Their taste variations are subtle and most are grown all year round so there is a continuous supply - great at this time of year when new season's vegetables are yet to appear.

Drumhead is a popular variety with smooth compact leaves while the Savoy has crinkly leaves with very good flavour.

Kale is also from the brassica family and until the Middle Ages, it was one of the most common green vegetables in all of Europe.

Young curly kale leaves can be used as a garnish and can be cooked in similar ways to cabbage. It is necessary to remove the thick stalks before cooking.

Cavolo nero is a type of kale with long strap-like leaves similar to savoy cabbage in texture. It has a blue-green colour that cooks to an intense silver beet green. Cavolo nero can be used the same way as cabbages, or in dishes with a distinct Italian flavour.

Cabbages can be steamed, boiled, stir-fried or be used raw in coleslaw, its leaves as a wrapping, stuffed with a savoury filling and simmered in liquid until tender or as sauerkraut.

They are a good source of vitamin C, a source of vitamin K, and contain a dietary significant amount of potassium.


  • Lemon juice, wine or vinegar can be added when cooking red cabbage to preserve the red colour.
  • Look out for firm heads that are heavy for their size with an even colour and crisp outer leaves.
  • Before eating, remove any tough, coarse or damaged leaves. Cut or shred depending on requirement.
  • Serve soon after cooking.


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