Green cabbage is the Toyota (or Honda!) of cabbages. Use it in salads and slaws, stir-fry it, or long-cook it to bring out its essential sweet nature. Look for heads that feel heavy for their size (which can range from softball to almost basketball size), with tightly packed, moist looking leaves. The queen of slaw, green cabbage can stand up to even the heaviest, creamiest, or spiciest of dressings.
Savoy cabbage is also known as curly cabbage. With ruffled, lacy, deeply ridged leaves, Savoy cabbages are perhaps the prettiest cabbages around. The leaves are more loosely layered and less tightly packed than green or red cabbage, although its uses are similar. It is delicious thinly sliced in salads, quickly stir-fried, or braised in butter.
Savoy cabbage is a bit more tender than other cabbages and works nicely as a fresh and crunchy wrap; try using it in place of rice paper or tortillas with your favorite fillings.
Red cabbage looks like green cabbage except, well, it’s red. To be more specific, it’s a lovely magenta. Red cabbage heads tend to be a bit smaller than green cabbages but look for similarly tightly packed, moist-looking leaves and heads that feel heavy for their size. Red cabbage is delicious thinly sliced in salads like Red Cabbage Slaw or cooked.
Note: Red cabbage turns an odd blue color when cooked. Mitigate this effect by adding some sort of acid (vinegar or lemon juice are common choices) when cooking it.
Napa cabbage is sometimes called Chinese cabbage or celery cabbage. Napa cabbage doesn’t look like head cabbages; it has long, light green leaves that flower off of thick, white stalks. It looks a bit like a cross between romaine lettuce and pale Swiss chard. It has a lovely mild flavor with a peppery kick that is delicious in salads or stir-frys. You can also turn it into spicy kimchi.
Brussels Sprouts are tiny cabbages and are usually sold loose, but if you find them sold on the stalk, know that they will keep for several weeks if chilled.