There is a myth that explains the creation of the cabbage. After a fierce battle between Dionysus, god of wine, and Lycurgus, who was defending his territory, the latter became completely unhinged and massacred his son, mistaking him for a vine. Overwhelmed and tormented, he cried with pain. His falling tears gave birth to cabbages that covered the ground. It is unclear whether it is because of this myth that cabbages are never planted near grapevines, or near to beehives, as the bees are likely to carry their odor to the grapes or to their honey.

The cabbage was a staple everywhere before the appearance of the potato. Taillevent served it regularly to the French king Charles VI. Catherine de Médicis introduced different varieties of cabbage to France, including Savoy cabbage.

The explorer Jacques Cartier brought the cabbage to Canada in 1541, but no evidence of it has been found of it in the United States until 1669.

A cabbage should be heavy and thick, with crisp, tightly packed, and shiny leaves that squeak between your fingers when they are separated. The cut to the stalk should be recent.

Brussels sprouts should also be firm, tightly packed, and green, without yellowing leaves. 

Cabbages are sold fresh and whole.

They can also be found whole and frozen, mostly sourced from China. Brussels sprouts come frozen and ready to cook.

There are countless uses because all the varieties of cabbage are cooked in myriad ways, in almost every corner of the world.

It is made into soup (caldo verde in Portugal), braised (embeurrée de chou, Irish colcannon cabbage), or used as a garnish for poultry or game (perdrix au chou), in hotpots, stuffed (Provençal sous-fassum), etc.

In Northern Europe, red cabbage cut into slices is marinated raw with salt and vinegar. North American coleslaw is a salad made from shredded white cabbage marinated in a vinaigrette.

Boiled Brussels sprouts are covered in butter and gratinated, or made into a Flemish-style puree.

There are countless uses because all the varieties of cabbage are cooked in myriad ways, in almost every corner of the world.

It is made into soup (caldo verde in Portugal), braised (embeurrée de chou, Irish colcannon cabbage), or used as a garnish for poultry or game (perdrix au chou), in hotpots, stuffed (Provençal sous-fassum), etc.

In Northern Europe, red cabbage cut into slices is marinated raw with salt and vinegar. North American coleslaw is a salad made from shredded white cabbage marinated in a vinaigrette.

Boiled Brussels sprouts are covered in butter and gratinated, or made into a Flemish-style puree.

When left whole, a cabbage can keep for a week in a cool room or refrigerator, and for 2–3 days when cut. It should always be protected to reduce oxidation and its rather strong smell.

The same goes for Brussels sprouts.

For centuries, cabbage has also been considered medicinal. In ancient times it was reputed to dispel melancholy. Greeks and Romans ate it to fight against the effects of drunkenness. This habit endures in the countries of Eastern Europe for overcoming the effects of excessive vodka consumption.

Now, in all countries where it is a dietary staple, rates of cancers and cardiovascular diseases are lower. Cabbage actually combines a high fiber content with antioxidants (vitamin C and carotenoids) associated with other protective substances that make it a particularly healthy food.

There are four main cabbage types:

Common (smooth leaf) cabbage

The most widely grown. Its leaves are smooth.

It comes in different varieties with round, oval, or conical shapes, and different colors: white, pale green, and red. The last of these is spicier; white and green varieties are sweeter.

Smooth leaf cabbages are available in markets all year round, but especially in the fall and winter. There are also early varieties (also known as summer cabbage) that can be found between April and June.

Savoy cabbage

Its leaves are curled, crinkly, and green. It is harvested in the fall and winter.

Quintal d'Alsace

Its leaves are highly overlapped. This cabbage is mainly used to prepare sauerkraut. It is harvested before the first frosts.

Brussels sprouts

This is the 2–4 cm bud of a variety that was developed in the 17th century in Brussels. It has a much stronger taste. It is harvested in winter.