Red cabbage is a mature cabbage with a strong, peppery flavor and tough leaves. Its color is a response to different acids and bases, and turns blue or purple after preparation. Red cabbage is also known as blue kraut or red kraut. It is commonly used for coleslaws and salads, and is popularly used as an alternative to green cabbage to add color and presentation to salads and cooked dishes.
A head of red cabbage is high in fiber and vitamin C, and can make many nutritional meals and snacks. Red cabbage is best prepared with a short cook time, before it starts to smell with overcooking, and is best prepared in stainless steel pots or pans. An average sized head of cabbage will serve nearly nine servings, cooked or raw, and can be served in a variety of dishes, from cole slaw and salads to other more adventurous cooked variations. It can be served as a side or an entrée, pickled or boiled, or just as a small, colorful garnish on a well-prepared meal.
The red color of the cabbage, when prepared incorrectly, can turn many different colors. These color changes are due to pigments in the ground where the cabbage was harvested, and the pH value of the soil. The most common discoloration is an ugly blue-gray color, though an alkaline soil will yield a greenish-yellow cabbage. To avoid color changes, red cabbage should be cooked with vinegar or other acidic products. Stainless steel cookware should also be used to avoid color changes when preparing.
Red cabbage takes about 70-75 days to harvest, similar to the time frame of a green cabbage, but faster than a savoy cabbage. The red meteor type of red cabbage takes 75 days, harvests firm, and is good for all seasons. Ruby ball cabbage is harvested much larger, is resistant to both heat and cold, and is slow to burst. Red cabbage is generally smaller and denser than green cabbage
Red cabbage should be harvested in well-fertilized soil in the late winter or early spring. The cabbage is often planted nearly a month prior to the last frost of the year. The pot of a red cabbage must allow the movement and permeation of water, and require a frequent diet of watering, though is otherwise an easy plant to care for. They are planted about 1-2 ft. (about 30-60 cm) apart, and thrive in moist environments.