The Wonderful World of Cabbage: Explore the Different Varieties

Cabbage, a versatile and abundant cool-season crop, is a favorite among gardeners. Whether you want to add a satisfying crunch to your dishes, sauté, roast, or pickle, cabbage is a fantastic choice. It’s even possible to store some varieties fresh for months, ensuring a constant supply of homegrown greens throughout the winter. With so many options, how do you choose the right cabbage for your garden and your cooking style? Let’s dive into the different types of cabbage to help you make an informed decision.

The Four Main Types of Cabbage

All cabbages belong to the Brassica family and have been carefully bred by plant experts to produce tightly packed heads of leaves. These cabbage varieties are “cousins” to other Brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and kale. The main subcategories of cabbage include green, red, savoy, and Chinese (or Napa) cabbage.

Green Cabbage, Brassica oleracea var. capitata f. alba

Green cabbage varieties have round or pointed heads and are perfect for making coleslaw and sauerkraut. Originating in Europe, along with red and savoy cabbage, they all belong to the Brassica oleracea species and the varietal capitata. The term “alba” in their botanical name refers to their pale color, which is why they are often called white cabbage. Green cabbage is frost hardy and can be stored well into the winter. Consider varieties like Early Jersey Wakefield for quick production, or Charleston Wakefield, which is heat tolerant and an excellent keeper.

Green Cabbage

Red Cabbage, B. oleracea var. capitata f. rubra

Red cabbage possesses all the attributes of green cabbage and is additionally packed with anthocyanin pigments, making it visually stunning and loaded with healthy antioxidants. The Red Acre variety matures early and forms round heads weighing 2 to 4 pounds. Its reddish-purple leaves are perfect for home gardeners with limited space.

Red Acre Cabbage

Savoy Cabbage, B. oleracea var. capitata f. sabauda

Savoy cabbage gets its name from the Savoy region of France and is known for its distinctive frilly and crinkled leaves. The term “savoyed” is commonly used to describe crinkled leaves in any vegetable and is even associated with certain varieties of spinach. Savoy cabbages are prized for their robust frost tolerance (down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit!), sweet and mild flavor, and tender leaves. They are particularly excellent for raw consumption in salads or as wraps. Consider the Perfection Savoy variety, tolerant of both heat and frost, making it a fantastic choice for fall gardens. Its large round, green heads, weighing 6 to 8 pounds, are also suitable for winter storage.

Perfection Savoy Cabbage

Chinese Cabbage, B. rapa var. perkinsis

Chinese cabbage, also known as Napa cabbage, stands out among the main types of cabbage as it belongs to a different species altogether – Brassica rapa. While other cabbages have close relations to broccoli and kale, Chinese cabbage shares its lineage with mustard greens and bok choy. Unlike European cabbages, Chinese cabbage has a slightly peppery flavor and a juicy, crunchy texture, thanks to its mustard and Asian greens ancestry. It is delightful when lightly cooked in stir-fries or used in traditional kimchi. Keep in mind that long-term fresh storage is not its strong suit, nor is withstanding hard freezes. However, it can handle light frosts. Michihili is a popular Chinese cabbage variety that produces green, cylindrical heads around 14 inches tall and 6 inches in diameter.

Napa Cabbage

Other Cabbage Varieties

Though they don’t form heads like the typical cabbage, there are a few leafy greens that are sometimes referred to as cabbage due to their cabbage-like texture.

  • Jersey cabbage (also known as walking stick cabbage or cow cabbage) is a rare variety from the Channel Islands known for its towering height. Traditionally, lower leaves were used as fodder for livestock while the top cluster of new leaves was harvested for culinary purposes when the stalk reached full height.

  • Tronchuda cabbage (also known as Portuguese kale) is another example of a non-heading “cabbage.” Its robust texture makes it an excellent addition to soups, similar to other cabbage varieties.

  • Morris Heading collards, also called Carolina Cabbage collards, have a cabbage-like texture and loosely formed heads. These loose-leafed “cabbages” often produce harvestable leaves earlier than traditional cabbage and are less susceptible to pests. They are a great option if you’re not growing for winter storage or specific cabbage uses like sauerkraut or coleslaw.

Hopefully, this guide has helped you decide which cabbage varieties to plant in your garden. Explore our wide collection of cabbage seeds or read our article on how to grow cabbage for more pointers on successfully cultivating this versatile crop.

Cabbage Plants

Article Written by: Leah Smith

About the Author: Leah Smith is the Seed Product Manager at Sow True Seed. Her role involves adding new varieties to the catalog and ensuring the quality of the seed stock. With firsthand experience in farming, Leah has a deep understanding of cultivating crops while caring for the environment.