Cabbage (green)

A sturdy, abundant vegetable that is rich in vitamin C, cabbage is almost on par with potatoes as a long-standing dietary staple. An inexpensive food that is easy to grow, almost universally available, and keeps well, cabbage, as a member of the large family of cruciferous vegetables, is rich in nutrients. Along with vitamin C, it contains significant amounts of the nitrogen compounds known as indoles, which appear to lower the risk of various forms of cancer. Cabbage also contains a good amount of fibre, both soluble and insoluble.

Look for solid, heavy heads of cabbage, with no more than three or four loose "wrapper" (outer) leaves. These outer leaves should be clean and flexible but not limp, and free of discolored veins or caterpillar damage, which may penetrate the interior of the head. The stem should be closely trimmed and healthy looking, not dry or split. The inner and outer leaves should be tightly attached to the stem. Autumn and winter cabbage from storage are usually firmer than the fresh-picked types sold in spring and summer. Don't buy halved or quartered heads of cabbage, even if well wrapped: As soon as the leaves are cut or torn, the vegetable begins to lose vitamin C.

Cabbage keeps well and retains its vitamin C if kept cold. Place the whole head of cabbage in a perforated plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator . An uncut head of green cabbage will keep for at least two weeks.

Once a head of cabbage is cut, cover the cut surface tightly with plastic wrap and use the remainder within a day or two. Rubbing the cut surface with lemon juice will prevent it from discolouring.

The interior of a head of green cabbage is nearly always clean, but if you want to rinse it, do so shortly before cooking the cabbage, and after you cut or chop it. To conserve its vitamin C, don't cut up cabbage until you're ready to cook it.

When cutting cabbage into wedges, leave part of the core intact to help hold the leaves together. However, when cabbage is to be cut up into smaller pieces, the first step is to quarter and core it: Cut the cabbage in quarters through the stem. Then cut out a wedge-shape section from each quarter to remove the stem and core.

To slice or shred cabbage, place a quarter wedge on the cutting board, resting on its side. Slice through the wedge vertically to cut it into wide ribbons or fine shreds. You can also grate cabbage by hand on the coarse side of a grater, or shred it in the food processor, using the grating disk.

Use a stainless steel knife when cutting cabbage; its juices react with carbon steel and the cut edges of the cabbage will turn black.

Cabbage should be cooked quickly, then served as soon as possible.