Green cabbage is the most commonly eaten variety of cabbage world-wide. Fresh, dark green-leafy cabbage is incredibly nutritious for the low calories that it provides. The cabbage that we know today was developed from wild cabbage, a vegetable that was closer in appearance to collards and kale since it is composed of leaves that do not form a tight ball, or head.
White cabbage is a very lightly-colored form of green cabbage and the most commonly eaten variety of cabbage in the U.S.
Red cabbage has a hearty flavor. The rich red color is due to the concentration of anthocyanin polyphenols, which give red cabbage significantly more protective phytonutrients than green cabbage. Anthocyanin pigments are dietary antioxidants, as well as anti-inflammatory, and they may provide protective, preventative, and therapeutic aids in many diseases.
Napa cabbage is a milder tasting variety that contains the highest concentration of folate. It is so low in calories that it fits into the neo-class of zero calorie or negative calorie vegetables, which means that it takes more calories to digest it than you get from it. Some common names of napa include pe-tsai, celery cabbage, Chinese white cabbage, Peking cabbage, won bok, nappa (Japanese), hakusai (Japanese), pao, and hsin pei tsai.
Bok choy has a milder, sweet, succulent flavor than regular cabbage and is the #1 vegetable in China. It has leafy nutritious stalks that grow upright from the ground with smooth white romaine lettuce-like stalks, which spread at the end to oval or round glossy green leaves that may reach 12-18 inches in length. Bok choy has a higher concentration of beta-carotene and vitamin A than any other variety of cabbage. It is also one of the negative calorie vegetables. Other common names include pe-tsai, pak choi, petsay, white-celery mustard, and Chinese white cabbage.
Savoy cabbage leaves are more ruffled and are yellowish-green in color. Red and green cabbage have a more defined taste along with a crunchy texture, while the Savoy cabbage is a more delicate flavor.
Brussels sprouts resemble miniature cabbages, with a 1 inch diameter. They grow along a 3 foot stem in bunches of 20 to 40. They are usually a sage green in color, although some varieties have a red hue.
Swamp cabbage refers to the Symplocarpus foetidus or eastern skunk cabbage that grows in soft wetland soils, bogs, swamps, and is often cultivated in water gardens. It has an unpleasant skunk-like odor when the leaves are broken or torn. It has been used as a medicinal plant for treating respiratory illnesses, nervous disorders, rheumatism, and dropsy. Native American tribes also used it as a seasoning, and magical talisman. The western skunk cabbage from the genus Lysichiton is often confused with eastern skunk cabbage. Swamp cabbage is not considered to be edible in its raw form due to roots and leaves that contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause intense burning of the mouth, but young leaves may be thoroughly dried and then used in soups and stews. Only drying removes this property, boiling does not. Thoroughly dried rootstocks can be made into a pleasant cocoa-like flour. Cordage can also be made from the fibers in the stem. It is not a true cabbage.