Cabbage (Brassica oleracea or variants) is a leafy green biennial plant, grown as an annual vegetable crop for its dense-leaved heads. Closely related to other cole crops, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, it descends from B. oleracea var. oleracea, a wild field cabbage. Cabbage heads generally range from 1 to 8 pounds (0.5 to 4 kg), and can be green, purple and white. Smooth-leafed firm-headed green cabbages are the most common, with smooth-leafed red and crinkle-leafed savoy cabbages of both colors seen more rarely.
It is difficult to trace the exact history of cabbage, but it was most likely domesticated somewhere in Europe before 1000 BC, although savoys were not developed until the 16th century. By the Middle Ages, it had become a prominent part of European cuisine. Cabbage heads are generally picked during the first year of the plants' life cycles, but those intended for seed are allowed to grow a second year, and must be kept separated from other cole crops to prevent cross-pollination. Cabbage is prone to several nutrient deficiencies, as well as multiple pests, bacteria and fungal diseases.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that world production of cabbage and other brassicas for calendar year 2011 was almost 69 million metric tons (68 million long tons; 75 million short tons). Almost half of these crops were grown in China, where Chinese cabbage is the most popular Brassica vegetable. Cabbages are prepared in many different ways for eating. Pickling the vegetable, in dishes such as sauerkraut, is the most popular, but it is also steamed, stewed, sautéed, braised, or eaten raw. Cabbage is a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C and fiber. Contaminated cabbage has been linked to cases of food-borne illness in humans.