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Red cabbage, the colorful purple cabbage to enjoy in season (and beyond Christmas): properties, characteristics and recipes

22 mayo, 2021

There are few, but tasty, purple foods that we find in our diet. By boat we could soon talk about purple garlic, carrots (yes, there are purple ones), but also potatoes (like vitelotte) and some fruits of the forest, with certain violet hues.

Beyond them, these tones are not abundant in our kitchen but if we talk about a protagonist, purple or purple, we must talk about the red cabbage. A cabbage that sets cathedral colors in our autumn and winter kitchen, being very important in many Christmas tables, and to which we surrender today, demonstrating that it is not necessary to ‘condemn’ it on the stove until December 25 only.

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As versatile as the rest of cabbages but something sweeter and infinitely more colorful, we could say that red cabbage is a fun ingredient to start from the starters to the main ones and even making a particular kimchi. Today we show you.

What is red cabbage?

What is it

If the Lombard made announcements, we would say that she always comes home for Christmas, because it is a typical winter vegetable, being planted during the spring so that they reach the markets from the month of November, extending their harvest until the months of January and February.

Also called red cabbage or purple cabbage, red cabbage is a vegetable that It is part of the very extensive Cruciferae or Brassicaceae family, with more than 3,000 different species, and that are called cruciferous because their flowers develop in a kind of cross.

Botanically, the red cabbage is a Brassica oleracea (capitata frubra, to be exact), a species in which we also find cabbage (which is also capitata), kale, collard greens, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts among the best known in our markets, all of which are of the same species but different cultivars.

In the case of the red cabbage we speak of a herbaceous plant that can be biennial, although the most common is that it is annual for its culinary use. Like cabbage, the red cabbage stands out for its stem that does not branch and shapes the bud, which is covered with various smooth leaves that hug it in a spiral and tighten, being tighter than those of cabbage.

The main contrast is in its color, which ranges between blue and purple, being more bluish in alkaline soils and being more red and purple in acid soils. Its coloration is due to the presence of anthocyanin, a flavonoid that also served to baptize that blue pigment.

In fact, its botanical name rubra means ‘red’ in Latin, which currently serves to define Lombard in many languages ​​such as French (rouge chou), English (red cabbage) or German (rotkohl). Even if we also find it as purple cabbage or red cabbage, The name of lombarda is a mystery – about which we are looking for an answer – although knowing that there is also the so-called cabbage of Milan, it is possible that our answers will lead us to Italy.

Origin and current cultivation

Origin And Cultivation

The origin of cabbages and cabbages seems be in the Mediterranean basin, especially in the eastern part, knowing the use of cabbage and red cabbage since 2,500 BC in Ancient Egypt.

Its proliferation throughout the rest of the Mare Nostrum would occur with the Romans and Greeks, which they found in the cabbages and lombards not just good cheap food -In addition to being quite resistant-, but also a medical remedy frequently used in poultices.

Evolution made cabbages, cabbages and red cabbages take root in the rest of Europe from the Middle Ages, being a frequent food of the most popular classes by the little demand of the crop and to withstand the climatic conditions well adverse, thus spreading through France, Germany, the British Isles and northern Europe.

Also at that time cabbages, cabbages, collards and red cabbage became common ingredients of Spanish kitchens, finding the participation of these crucifers in practically in much of the national cookbook, from the Catalan trinxat to the Jerez cabbage, passing through the Madrid-style red cabbage, an iconic Christmas dish, which is served stewed with bacon, pine nuts, apple and certain spices. In fact, its satiating power and low price earned it the nickname ‘the poor man’s turkey’.

At present, the red cabbage is well spread throughout Central Europe, although not so much in Spain where cabbage and cabbage are much more popular. In terms of consumption and cultivation we find it mainly in the center of the plateau, being Segovia, Toledo and Madrid provinces where a good part of its cultivation is focused, although they are not the only ones.

Description and characteristics


The red cabbage that we find in our markets and stores usually comes already devoid of the outer leaves and packed in plastic. The weights range between a kilo and two kilos, being harder and less tender those of greater caliber.

They are spherical and have a diameter between 20 and 25 centimeters and it is easily identifiable due to its similarity to cabbage and its unmistakable color, which in the longitudinal section is seen between white and purple, highlighting the appearance of the stem, the hardest part of the plant.

The leaves are juicy but tough, offering greater resistance to bite than cabbages or cabbages, which is why they also need a somewhat longer cooking time.

How to choose and preserve red cabbage

How to choose

It is common for us to find red cabbage already packaged and devoid of its outer leaves, but we can also find it in markets and stores. To check its freshness it is convenient to look at the external appearance, noting that the outer leaves are shiny, fresh, and not bruised or broken.

They should be solid and heavy to the touch, never giving the sensation of hollow or empty. Some tap your knuckles at the base of the Red cabbage will serve to hear the interior, which should not sound liquid or viscous either, signs of an excessive ripening of the red cabbage.

It is also advisable to pay attention to the touch and sight differences between outer and inner sheets because it is common to eliminate the exteriors (most exposed and suffered) and leave only the interiors covering the red cabbage and thus concealing the possible passage of time.

Those that have excessively sweet odors in crude oil and also those that have too intense sulfur aromas should be rejected, although in both cases a healthy red cabbage should be relatively sweet and sulphurous on the nose.

The conservation is simple, like the rest of cabbages or cabbages. Holds easily for two to three weeks in the fridge inside the vegetable crate, stored in a perforated plastic or paper bag, so that it breathes. In case we have to buy a large red cabbage, it is always better to consume it in layers, cutting leaves according to our needs and not dividing it in half.

It is also not convenient to wash it with water until it is not going to be consumed, although if it is fresh and is not packaged, it is necessary to remove the dust or outer dirt that it may have, as well as several of the outer leaves.

Nutritional properties and benefits

Properties and Benefits

Satiating, full of water and low in calories. Red cabbage barely provides 20-25 kcal per 100g of product, making it a wonder for autumn and winter menus where we go with the fats in other recipes.

It also has an interesting fiber content (2.5g per 100g), no cholesterol and a low percentage of carbohydrates (3.5g per 100g), so it is also a good ingredient for low-calorie diets and for people with diabetes.

Its vitamin contribution is not particularly relevant, although it has an appreciable dose of vitamin C (57mg per 100g) and a good presence of minerals, highlighting potassium (250mg per 100g) and calcium (52mg per 100g).

Thanks to the fiber, red cabbage favors intestinal transit, although its sulfur components imply improving digestion with ingredients such as fennel or the road. In addition, the anthocyanins mentioned above – related to color – provide an important antioxidant action.

How to prepare the red cabbage

How to prepare

The most common recipes with red cabbage involve cooked and boiled, which can then be sautéed or turned into creams and purees. However, we can also take advantage of it in crude oil, for example in salads, and also to respect its culinary virtues to the maximum by resorting to boiled ones.

It is not advisable to overcook it because it loses color and texture, which is why it is more than enough to cook it over low heat for 30 or 40 minutes, always starting from low boils. Like all crucifers, red cabbage gives off a slightly sulphurous and unpleasant smell (let’s think of cauliflower or Brussels sprouts) during cooking, which multiplies if they are too fast and intense, so it is It is convenient to resort to slower fires or steamed.

More digestive when eaten raw than when eaten cooked, a good way to take red cabbage is to chop it finely and sauté it or distribute it in cabbage salads – think of a coleslaw with a little color. Vinegars and vinaigrettes (with a little mustard, for example) are also good for those salads, where it’s convenient. accompany it with a sweeter touch such as carrot or the onion, where we could serve the grated red cabbage.

How to Prepare 2

If it is eaten raw, as it is harder than the rest of the vegetables, we could dress the salad a little in advance so that the flavors are integrated. If we work it cooked, we can also sauté it with a sauce of garlic and a touch of balsamic vinegar, which enhances the sweetness and balances it. We can also use it in dipeos with fresh and slightly acidic yogurts such as Greek yogurt or with a tzatziki, which are good and fresh ways to enjoy red cabbage.

In any case, if we consume it cooked and we are not going to prepare it on the spot, it is convenient add a few drops of vinegar and leave well covered the red cabbage so that it does not lose its characteristic purple color, because once cooked it begins to turn blue.

The cooking water can also be used as a broth (as we would do with a cabbage broth) and start a stew or to be the background on …