Cabbage—a perfect match boiled with corned beef, the obvious choice as coleslaw for a BBQ plate. This cruciferous vegetable can be overlooked given its relegated role as a sidekick side dish. Cabbage is always the bridesmaid, never the bride. However, cabbage has an impressive lineup of star qualities that can, and should, put this humble vegetable front and center. Its year-round accessibility, versatility in preparation, notable nutritional value, and excellent storage qualities make it an easy choice for institutions purchasing local New York grown produce.
New York Grown Food Guides offer information and resources to support institutions in identifying, sourcing, and procuring local foods from the state. The Guides, along with the Farm to Institution New York State Local Food Buyer Learning Center toolkits, equip food service and procurement staff with education and training to incorporate local products into meals to improve the health of New Yorkers and local economies statewide.
Crunch on This: Cabbage Facts
Cabbage belongs to the Cruciferae family of vegetables, along with broccoli, collards, kale and Brussels sprouts. Three major types include Brassica oleracea (green and red) and Savoy. The two most common types of Chinese cabbage are Bok Choy and Napa cabbage.
New York is one of the largest producers of cabbage (second only to California) with 10,000+ acres harvested. 3
New York produces 14.7% of the United States’ total production of cabbage, totaling 3,445,000 units. 4
Cooler climates, such as New York’s Finger Lakes and Western regions, lead to an ideal environment for cabbage production.
Of the 100 varieties of cabbage grown throughout the world, more than 30 varieties are harvested in New York. Cabbage is one of the oldest vegetables in existence and continues to be a dietary staple throughout the world. 5
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable that is rich in phytochemicals, which help boost the immune system and lower the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.
While low in calories and consisting of roughly 90% water, cabbage is a nutritional powerhouse that is an excellent source of manganese, vitamin B6, and folate; and a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, potassium, vitamin A, tryptophan, protein, and magnesium. 6
Availability, Pack Sizes, Varieties, Grading and Quality Characteristics
Cabbage is available nearly year-round—11 months out of the year! It is harvested in summer to fall, sold fresh-cut until December, then available from cold storage until May or June. Specifically, it’s harvested twice in New York. The early summer harvest yields tender cabbages perfect for slaws and salads. The second fall harvest yields tight, dense cabbage heads that have an excellent storage life.
The selection and procurement of quality cabbage depends on a variety of factors, including knowledge of pack sizes, cabbage varieties, and how to determine quality characteristics for each variety. The information below identifies common varieties of cabbage, as well as selection criteria and storage best practices.
U.S. No. 1
When selecting cabbage, look for:
Solid, firm, clean, and heavy heads
Napa cabbage heads will be lighter and softer with more air between leaves
Heads that are not withered, puffy, or burst
Cabbage should be free from soft rot, seed stems, discoloration/browning, and damage caused by insects or machines
Stems should be cleanly cut so that they do not extend more than one-half inch beyond the point of attachment of the outermost leaves
Below you will find information to obtain local produce, including New York cabbage. Distributor contact information is subject to change, and we encourage you to reach out to vendors directly to confirm availability and ordering procedures.
Early Childhood and Lower Elementary: Dyeing with Red Cabbage
Upper Elementary: More Dyeing with Red Cabbage
Middle School: Cabbage Juice Indicator
High School: Eat Your Phytochemical Colors
For Newcomb Central School’s January Harvest of the Month feature on cabbage, Food Service Director Dave Hughes collaborated with Meghan Brooks of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County to bring cabbage into the classroom with a lesson on the production process behind sauerkraut. Cabbage was procured from Juniper Hill Farm, shredded at the Hub on the Hill, and then brought into the seventh and eighth grade science classroom. Meghan’s lesson was designed to incorporate a scientific understanding into the food students were going to be eating, with the goal of increasing the likelihood that students will taste the sauerkraut when it is served in their school lunch. When talking about the sauerkraut curriculum, Meghan says, “I wanted to show the students the science behind fermentation. ‘This is what happens, this is how a simple vegetable can turn into a vegetable full of probiotic goodness that’s good for you in all these different ways,’ making it a little more tangible for students.”
Meghan’s lesson covered fermentation, how the process works, the history of the method, and what fermented products other than sauerkraut students might be seeing and eating regularly. Students then put all their new science into practice by making sauerkraut together, which was then brought back to the Hub on the Hill for monitoring during the fermentation time. Once ready, Meghan will bring the sauerkraut back to Newcomb Central School for a tasting and sensory analysis – incorporating the entire process into curriculum. Both Meghan and Dave cite their shared enthusiasm for farm to school, existing working relationship, cooperation from teachers at Newcomb, and the resources made available by local farms and the Hub on the Hill as the main contributing factors for successfully bringing farm to school into the classroom.