The heart of any good coleslaw is shredded green cabbage, which, in the supermarket, looks similar to a head of iceberg lettuce - green, round and typically a little smaller than a volleyball. Green is the most common type of cabbage and is popular for its crunchiness and mild flavour. When looking for a head of green cabbage, look for one that is heavy for its size and has no discolouration.
This type adds a burst of colour to any salad or stir-fry. Red cabbage takes longer to mature than green cabbage, so they usually aren't as tender. This variety is perfect for serving raw in salads and slaws. The colour in red cabbage can often run when cooked. Other foods will turn red and the cabbage will take on a bluish hue. This can be avoided by cooking with an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar.
Tender and sweet, Savoy cabbage is popular in Italian recipes and has a milder flavour than green cabbage. Look for heads with even green colouring and slightly cone-shaped leaves. The leaves should be crisp, not limp, and there should be no sign of browning. The firmer leaves work well when cooked in such dishes as cabbage rolls.
Introduced into North America from China in the 1880s, Napa is also known as Chinese cabbage. It has long, oblong-shaped leaves that are flat and wide. The leaves are a pale green to greenish white in the centre. It looks much like a head of Romaine lettuce only more compact, with curly edges. Napa can be served cooked or raw and works particularly well in stir-fries and soups.