The cabbage is a plant of the Family Brassicaceae (or Cruciferae). It is herbaceous, biennial, and a dicotyledonous flowering plant with leaves forming a characteristic compact cluster. This so-called cabbage head is widely consumed — raw, cooked, or preserved — in a great variety of dishes.
The cabbage head was bred into the species from the leafy wild plant, found in the Mediterranean region around 100 AD. The English name derives from the French caboche ("head"). Varieties include red cabbage and savoy cabbage.
The only part of the plant that is normally eaten is the leafy head; more precisely, the spherical cluster of immature leaves, excluding the partially unfolded outer leaves. Cabbages are commonly used both cooked and as a salad vegetable. Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage often used as a condiment or side dish.
Cabbage leaves are considered too tough to be used whole in salads, so they are usually sliced into thin strips or chopped, as in coleslaw.
Cabbage is often prepared by boiling, usually as part of soups or stews in Central and Eastern European. Boiling tenderizes the leaves, converts some of their starch to sugars, and develops a characteristic "cabbage" aroma. Boiled cabbage as an accompainiment to meats and other dishes can be an opportune source of umami, sugars and dietary fiber.
Cabbage (sliced) fries particularly well with juniper berries or some toasted sessame seed and a splash of lemon juice.
Cabbage is often consumed as sauerkraut, a preserve made from sliced, cooked, and fermented heads. Sauerkraut was historically prepared at home, as a way of storing food for the winter; but its production is time-consuming and smelly, so nowadays it is mainly an industrialized product.