Veggie of the Week - Napa Cabbage
sponsored by Coleman Farms
Yet another Brassica , this week it's Napa Cabbage, which has as many common aliases (Chinese cabbage, white cabbage, ...) as it does scientific names (variously assigned to the species campestris, pekinensis, petsai, rapa...), but we can disambiguate the situation with a photo.
Both this chinese cabbage and the other common one (aka Bok Choy) are arranged celery-style, the leaf curvature being mostly simple and the leaves minimally crinkly, so that they can be easily separated, unlike the leaves of typical heading cabbage. What we're calling Napa differs from Bok Choi in that the leaf blade of Napa is coextensive with the stem, while that of Bok Choy concentrates at the distal end of the heavier stem, like celery leaves. There's also a difference in flavor, Napa being less 'cabbagy' - lower in sulpherous compounds and without the slightly astringent tang of Bok Choy.
The shape and separability of Napa leaves makes them better suited to stuffing than the leaves of ordinary California cabbage. Napa leaves are more tender and more succulent than european cabbage, meaning they cook quicker and release considerable liquid if cooked very long. These properties suit them well to stirr-frying, while the tenderness and sweetness make them very useful in salads (perhaps too useful, judging from one of our links). Napa welcomes gentle handling: unless you have a very sharp grater, grating will produce a wet fairly mashed up result, while slicing or chopping will preserve crispness. A cooking suggestion made in one of our links is to separate the stalk from the leaves, and add the leaves part way through cooking. On the other hand, if the whole leaf is cooked at once, you can end up with a 'vegetable' (the slightly crunchy stalk) and a 'green' (the wilted leaf blade). This works well in recipies such as the pasta and Napa in the final link.
thanks to Wikipedia.org for today's photo