Go green for cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day and beyond

Maybe it’s time for cabbage to turn over a new leaf.

Sulfuric, limp and a ghastly shade of yellow-gray-green, overcooked cabbage is the very picture of unappetizing. Entire generations of children have grown up holding their noses and making faces at the mere mention of the leafy, green vegetable traditionally associated with St. Patrick’s Day. But more and more cooks are discovering that there’s more than one way to cook (or not) a cabbage.

Low in calories and high in vitamins A and C, cabbage does best with low-and-slow braising recipes or eaten raw in salads and slaws. Because of south Louisiana’s long growing season and warmer weather, locally grown cabbage is available through the fall and into spring.

Jynell Glaser, of Glaser’s Produce Farm in New Roads, said spring is great for her cabbages, which grow quickly into tender, sweet plants.

“You always want to get your greens in the spring,” she said. “Just steam it and put a little seasoning and butter on it. It’s fabulous.”

Glaser and her husband, Charles “Brother” Glaser, will harvest about 5,000 cabbages per growing season to sell at Baton Rouge-area farmers markets and their roadside stand, including a heirloom variety called Early Jersey Wakefield. These smaller, pointy cabbages are extremely sweet, Jynell Glaser said, and are the perfect size for a small family.

Jynell Glaser sometimes makes her cabbage into a slaw with raisins and apples, or a sweet-and-sour coleslaw with dill relish and a little sugar. It depends, she said, on who she’s cooking for. She also braises the cabbage in a tomato sauce, putting the chopped ingredients for traditional cabbage rolls in a skillet.

When looking for a cabbage, the Good Housekeeping folks say, select heads that are heavy, firm and blemish-free with tightly packed leaves. Store cabbages in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator in a plastic bag with a few holes poked in it.

To prepare them, discard the tough outer leaves and cut out the cabbage’s core before chopping or shredding the leaves.

Glaser said cabbages exposed to cold weather will grow slower and have tougher leaves while summer and spring cabbages will grow faster and be more tender. She said those same principles hold true for other members of the family, including broccoli and Brussels sprouts.