What To Do If Your Napa Cabbage Has Tiny Black Spots

Roasted, grilled, fermented, stuffed, or transformed into a slaw, napa cabbage lends itself wonderfully to so many dishes. While blemish-free leaves are obviously the most aesthetic choice for showing off your culinary creations, are those tiny black flecks on your cabbage cause for concern? Here's what to do if you see spots.

Unlike the tightly wrapped green or purple orbs, napa cabbage looks like an elongated head of leafy lettuce with green exterior leaves and a yellow center. Originating from northern China, MasterClass explains that napa cabbage is a sweeter variety that's especially rich in fiber, folic acid, and vitamin C.

Reaching their prime during the winter season, Bon App├ętit explains that when shopping for the vegetable, you should aim for a cabbage that feels heavy for its size with firm, compact leaves that are bruise-free. But what about those heads of cabbage that look like they were sprinkled with pepper?

Pepper spots shouldn't be cause for concern

The sesame seed-sized dots found on the outside of napa cabbage leaves are called pepper spots, but can also be referred to as gomasho or vein necrosis, according to the University of Florida. But while you might assume these flecks are because of bacteria or pests, they're likely due to genetics along with environmental factors like high soil pH, excessive use of nitrogen and phosphorus-rich fertilizers, and poor harvesting or storage conditions.

That said, these petiole spots on leaves are more of a cosmetic issue than anything else. Deemed safe to eat, Cook's Illustrated even conducted a blind tasting with blemished and unblemished napa leaves and found that there wasn't a difference in taste, nor texture. Although you can buy heads of peppered cabbage without worry, you should still keep an eye out for mold.

Although pepper spots on outer leaves won't affect internal leaves, Have a Plant explains that spots can also indicate the presence of mold if the cabbage was kept improperly. As a result, it's best to remove those stained outer leaves and make sure that inner leaves don't have black spores before cooking up cabbage steaks or making your next fresh batch of kimchi.