Gorgeous Cabbage, Rancheria Community Garden, Santa Barbara CA Nov 27 after the rain.
Cabbages have high fiber content, low calories! They have terrific disease-fighting compounds – cancer prevention, are high in Vitamins C and K, and have a host of minerals. They are not a cut and come again veggie like local chard or super Vitamin A kale or purslane with its Omega 3s. But they will grow back in mini foursomes or up to six if you cut the head off close to the bottom of the head, leaving the lower leaves. Work some rich manure into the first inch of soil, then treat your plant like you normally would! The new heads are always smaller. Perhaps it’s better to remove and compost larger lower leaves, restore the soil and plant something new. But if your growing season is too short for multiple crops, this is a way of getting just a little more cabbage, and it is super tender!
We love that cabbage makes those super heads in a glorious profusion of amazing leaves! It has its own unique crunchy texture. Consider that they do take up a fair footprint for a one time crop. Some say cabbage is cheap, why grow it? Cause it’s organic and it tastes terrific right from the ground! To some its sulfurous scent while cooking is overpowering (see below for ways to reduce that); to others it is heaven, what their family has always done! If you love it, you love it, and you might even get used to it!
Cabbage is in the cruciferous family, genus Brassica. The word “brassica” translates in Latin as “cabbage.” Other brassicas are broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens.
Tantalizing Startlingly Different Cabbage VARIETIES! As climate changes, look for heat and drought tolerant varieties if you will be growing them over summer.
Classic gorgeous greens
Red cabbage by far outdoes other cabbages in its cancer prevention properties. They have a concentration of anthocyanin polyphenols, which contribute to red cabbage containing significantly more protective phytonutrients than green cabbage. Interest in anthocyanin pigments continues to intensify because of their health benefits as dietary antioxidants, as an anti-inflammatory, and their potentially protective, preventative, and therapeutic roles in a number of human diseases.
Early Maturing Minis or HUGE! Plant what you and your family can eat. Plant early for soonest treats, and longer maturing larger varieties to come in later. A couple delightful minis that can also be grown in containers are green Pixie Baby, and Red Express – 2 to 4 lb head, relatively split tolerant, only 63 days!
Huge varieties you can grow easily are Mammoth Red Rock Cabbage, Stein’s Early Flat Dutch – 8 inch and larger heads weighing 10-12 pounds, a favored variety for kraut. If you really do want to grow giants, 80 lbs!, try Flatpol, Northern Giant, Giant Russian, OS Cross or Megaton!
Earthy tasting bumpy Savoys or Super Smooth leaved…
Savoy cabbage in particular—turns out to be an especially good source of sinigrin. Sinigrin is one of the cabbage glucosinolates that has received special attention in bladder, colon, and prostate cancer prevention research. Savoys are quite frost tolerant.
Brussels sprouts are the most recent historically, appearing on our tables by 1785. Really, they are mini cabbages conveniently along a stem! Santa Barbara weather generally doesn’t get frosty enough to make B Sprouts happy, the sprouts are quite small. But if you don’t mind the harvest time per the return, and you just love them, may they grace your table!
Chinese Cabbages are another Brassica, but are not cabbages though they sure look like it! Napa cabbage is SO elegant! Very beautiful, all those long, pale leaves with ruffled edges. Try the beautiful, Scarlette F1** shown below left! Bok Choy, or pak choi, is another leafy upright cabbageish plant eaten fresh in salads or steamed delicately. A lot of cabbage lovers love these plants too!
GROWING Your Cabbages!
Cabbages are easy to grow. Those seeds are so tiny you can hardly believe that great big plant came from one! Full sun and fat soil make them happy. In acidic soil, Red cabbage leaves grow more reddish, in neutral soils they will grow purple, while an alkaline soil will produce rather greenish-yellow colored cabbages!
Select your planting area to accommodate your cabbages and their Companions! We have lots of tasty choices!
- Plant lettuces among your cabbages on the sunny side. Lettuces repel cabbage moths.
- Tomatoes and celery repel cabbage worms, but many sites say not to plant cabbies with toms.
- Nasturtium (attracts snails), onions, garlic, dill and borage act as an insect trap or repel harmful insects.
- Mustard greens among cabbage establishes a “trap” for moths and leafwebbers.
- Cabbage is not happy with Strawberries.
- Plant mint near peas, cabbage or tomatoes to improve their health and flavor, and mint oil repels insects. Plant the mint in a container! It’s invasive.
- Chamomile attracts hoverflies and wasps, both pollinators and predators that feed on aphids and other pest insects.
- Cilantro repels aphids, potato beetles, and spider mites and makes cabbages/Brassicas grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller!
NOTE: Dying parts of the brassica family of plants, includes cabbages, produce a poison that prevents the seeds of some plants from growing. Plants with small seeds, such as lettuce, are especially affected by the brassica poison, so use lettuce transplants among your cabbages. A professor at the University of Connecticut said brassica plants should be removed from the soil after they have produced their crop.
SOIL In SoCal, you can plant cabbages year round. They do better in cooler fall/winter weather though and frosts are no problem. Prepare your soil well in advance if you are in cold challenged areas. Often soil prep is done in fall rather than losing time getting ready in spring if you have a short summer. In Alaska, long 20 hour days compensate for their very short growing season!
Cabbies are heavy feeders producing all those leaves! They like rich soil and steady attention! Composted manure, Chicken manure, timed-release vegetable ferts are terrific. Cabbages need steady weather and regular watering for steady growth. Too much N (Nitrogen), too much water, makes the plant tender and weak – susceptible to pests. 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week does the job if it doesn’t rain. But an Alaskan planter says her cabbages will take a gallon of water on a long hot day when fully growing. Depends on where you are and how big your plant is. She grows giants.
Here’s her cabbage soil planting hole recipe! Peat moss (holds water), a pail of sand (if soil is heavy remove some before mixing), 2 cups bone meal, 4-6 cups of composted steer manure, 2 cups wood ashes, a couple heaping tablespoons of Epsom salt (Magnesium) & powdered milk (calcium), maybe a little lime (to raise pH to deter clubroot). Your soil is likely different and you aren’t likely growing giants, so do your own formula, but if you are raising giants, be generous, they are going to need it plus feedings!
After she plants… When its all watered and settled sprinkle a good cup of wood ashes around the new stem and nearby. This helps with bugs early when plants are at first weaker. Then I sprinkle Blood meal around in the moat off and on all summer, as its a quick nitrogen fix. I also use a little composted manure soaked in the water can and generous amount of fish emulsion in the summer watering. Fish is a slower acting fertilizer but cabbages seem to love it!
Here’s a tip from UK giant grower David Thomas: Water lodging in the base of the leaf? Rather than removing a huge leaf that contributes to your plant’s growth, his way around this is to simply poke a hole in the lowest part of the leaf to let the water drain away (not through the main vein).
SPACING If you are planting minis, 2′ spacing is good. If you are going for giants, 8′ spacing is needed! If you want maximum size, give them plenty of room. Crowding stunts plants as they shade each other out. Depending on the variety you plant, done right, in 82 days (3 months) you can get a 30 to 50 lb cabbage! In 2012, Scott Robb of Palmer, Alaska, broke the world record for heaviest cabbage at 138.25 lbs! He holds five current world records for his large vegetables.
Select your seeds. Remember, AAS, All America Selections winners are prime! 2016’s cabbage winner is Katarina F1, an early maturing green 4″ mini, container variety – but you can plant it in the ground too!
Get transplants from your local nursery. Locals are better than box stores because they select varieties that do well in your area and they want your success and your repeat business means a lot to them. Transplanting tips from David Thomas: I tear off all of the roots that are swirling around in the shape of the pot, this sounds a bit drastic and I would never treat a pumpkin plant in this way but on a cabbage it actually increases root growth. I plant the cabbage up to the base of the lowest leaf, the buried stem will also send out roots.
Plant smart! Succession! Plant seeds and transplants of minis and bigger longer maturers at the same time to have a grand succession of fresh cabbages for your table.
Water regularly, less if it rains. But, too much watering makes for a soft plant that invites sucking pests like those aphids. Keep a look out for any curling leaves. Get in there and look, front and back of leaves, and in the new leaf zone in the center. Hose them away immediately and keep doing it day after day until they are gone. If you see ants about tending the aphids sprinkle cinnamon around. Aphids can totally runt your plants, they often don’t recover, so don’t ignore them and just hope they will go away. See all about them UC – IPM
- Pick off any yellowing leaves that attract whiteflies that get into your other plants. UC – IPM Worm castings work well against whiteflies.
- Slugs love getting into the lower leaves of cabbage heads. The slugs are so protected in there. Grrrr…. Early on lay on a Sluggo like pellet to stop them before they get started! When your cabbage head is right around its maturity date and the head is good and firm, harvest it! When a plant is past its prime, diseases, pests and birds start doing their own harvesting.
- Holes in cabbage’s leaves are a sure sign that cabbage worms or cabbage loopers may be attacking your plant. Look for these camouflaged green pests on the underside of leaves and pick them off.
- Tiny holes? Flea beetles – Dust with wood ash or flour dust.
SIDEDRESSING If you think they need it, give your cabbies a feed when they start to head up. It may be that if you put a ring of granular nitrogen around cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower plants, you will be able to grow bigger heads of vegetables than you would without the nitrogen. Usually though, your soil will be ample.
HARVEST promptly! I put the plant date and days to maturity on my plant id tags so I can check to see when to expect mature heads. The squeeze test tells you if it is firm and ready. Storing them on the plant a short time is okay, but otherwise the slugs, etc., get to them, the leaves start losing their verve, the head dries a bit and doesn’t have that bursting fresh feel! If you wait too long, the head may crack or split. If it cracks, take it immediately and salvage what you can. Cut the heads off, don’t bruise them by pulling them.
STORE your cabbies in the fridge! Anthony Reyes at FarmScape Gardens says: Remove any loose surrounding leaves and keep just the compact head. It is important to note that the quality of the stem diminishes after being stored and tends to get slightly woodier the longer it is stored. Therefore, if you would like to eat the stem (which is delicious!) do so before freezing/storing for prolonged periods (it will still be good to eat, just a little bit woodier and sometimes stringy). Place in a paper or plastic bag with some holes in it to let moisture escape. This is important as you want to keep an aerobic environment to prevent excess moisture, condensation from transpiration, and mold from forming.
SEEDSAVING Cabbage must be kept separated from other cole crops by a mile to prevent cross-pollination. That is impossible in a community garden. Better there to buy new seed each year. Another factor to consider is cabbages are mostly self-infertile. For seedsaving purposes they need to be planted in groups of at least 10 or more. For most of us that isn’t going to happen. Then, you need two years to do it! Cabbages, like all the Brassicas – broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts – are biennials. So unless you have some extreme weather shifts, and they flower early, you wait overwinter. A week of hot weather and these cabbages above quickly bolted from no heads yet to flowering stalks. If you have had the opportunity to save seeds, lucky you! They are viable 2 – 4 years.
Red Cabbage bolting in second year
In normal conditions, after overwintering, in spring, new cabbage shoots burst strangely out of the unharvested cabbage heads, flower stalks form, then seeds are made in their second year. The seeds are easy to harvest, but get them before the birds do! Collect the dry seed pods. In a baggie, rub them between your hands to pop them open to release the seeds.
DELICIOUS WAYS TO EAT CABBAGE!
In one recent study (post undated), short-cooked and raw cabbage were the only types of cabbage to show cancer-preventive benefits – long-cooked cabbage failed to demonstrate measurable benefits.
Fresh Cole Slaw is best! Make it your way! Your recipe might mix red cabbage, pepper, shredded carrots, onion, grated cheese, pineapple, or apple. Your dressing could be a vinaigrette, mayonnaise, sour cream or cream with celery seed added. Slaw shapes are different – finely minced pieces, shredded strips, or even small squares! Buttermilk coleslaw is a southern United States treat! Or you just might top your salad with a few shreds of red cabbage!
Boiled! If you don’t like that sulfur smell, do it quick! Cut into thin 1/4″ slices or wedges, drop into boiling water, simmer 10 to 15 minutes until just tender ~ or steam. Drain and serve right now! Or if you don’t need it right away, chill in ice water, drain, wrap for later. The European Sour version is to cook your cabbage in apple juice, cider, white wine or water and wine vinegar, using just enough liquid to cover the cabbage. You let the liquid cook away leaving tender richly flavored cabbage! When cooking red cabbage it will normally turn blue. To retain that marvelous red color add vinegar or acidic fruit.
Put chunks in Soups & Stews, Stuff Leaves filled with whatever your heart desires, pickle, do classic Sauerkraut or super healthy Probiotics!
I love the subtleties of cabbage. Their colors. Writer Edna Ferber says ‘…always, to her, red and green cabbages were to be jade and burgundy, chrysoprase and porphyry.’ Cabbages more or less ‘sit’ compared to other veggies, collecting power from the ground up, expanding slowly and quietly from the inside – called ‘hearting up.’ They are working astonishingly hard making so many leaves! Each leaf harmonizes completely with the leaf next to it so the head is firm.
**Note on Scarlette F1: I came across it at Bobby-Seeds, page written in English! I didn’t realize it was in Europe. I only find 3 other companies on Google’s page 1 search, all in the UK. It is 2.75 pounds, $3.46 US. One company says it isn’t bitter like other red Napas. Another says it is ‘Developed by a specialist breeder in Asia, Scarlette is being aimed towards the salad markets in the UK and Spain. It is expected to generate particular interest among chefs due to its distinctive appearance.’ So, there may be shipping costs, but worth it if you can save pure seeds and keep it going! Let’s ask some of our favorite US seed companies to stock it!
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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!
See the entire December 2016 GBC Newsletter!
December Winter Garden Harvests!
Magnificent Cabbages are Easy to Grow!
Grow Your Own Garden Worms, Harvest Valuable Castings!
Wonderful Gardener Style Holiday Gifts!
Other Community Gardens – Lower Sioux Indian Community Garden
Events! January 29 Santa Barbara 9th Annual SEED SWAP!
See the wonderful November images at Rancheria Community Garden!
Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!
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