Master Gardener: Cabbage in your home garden

Cabbage can be a great addition to your home garden. Cabbage is loaded with healthy vitamins and minerals. Cabbage comes in many forms and colors: white, green, red, round, flat, pointed, savoyed, Chinese, etc.  You can plant delicately textured early spring cabbages, sweet and tasty pointed cabbages, bolder summer cabbages, and hardy winter cabbage.

The early spring and summer types are attractive to modern consumers as they have small heads (no waste) and can be eaten raw or just lightly cooked.  They also have lettuce-like qualities: crunchy and juicy with a very mild flavor.  For refreshing salads, light, crunchy and juicy cabbage is desired.  For stir fries thin, crisp leaves cook quickly but still retain some crunch.  For coleslaw, cabbage needs enough oomph to stand up to the mayonnaise and marinades and not get soggy.  And, for soups and stews, cabbage that retains its texture and does not turn to mush after simmering for a while is desired.

Savoy cabbage is best eaten cooked, it develops a lovely sweetness and brilliant fresh color after steaming for just a few minutes.  As a cook and gardener it is helpful to be aware of the kind of cabbage you grow to get the desired results. 

Here is a quick guide:

•Early Spring types are juicy and tender; best used for fresh salads.

Varieties include: Farao F1, Katarina F1, Derby Day, Quick Start F1

•Summer round types are thicker and harder; best used for coleslaw, salads and cooking.

Varieties include: Fast Vantage F1, Golden Acre, Stonehead F1, Capture F1

•Summer, pointed types are soft and tender; best used for fresh salads or grilled.

Varieties include: Caraflex F1, Murdoc F1, Early Jersey Wakefield

•Summer, flat types are thin and crunchy; best used for sandwich wraps, rolls and stir fries.

Varieties include:  Tendersweet F1, Gunma F1,

•Summer Savoy types are crinkled and light; best used for stir-fries, steamed or in soups.

Varieties include:         Savoy Perfection, Alcosa F1, Melissa F1

•Winter /Storage types are thicker and firmer; best used for coleslaw, soups and stews. Storage types can be kept in the refrigerator or root cellar for long periods of time and eaten during the winter months.

Varieties include: Danish Ball Head, Reaction F1, Kaitlin F1, Brunswick

•Chinese/Napa are barrel shaped and either green or yellow on the inside and usually have a green exterior. They are best eaten raw or lightly cooked.

Varieties include: China Express F1, Michihli, Bilko F1

•Pak Choi/Bok Choi is closely related to the Chinese/Napa cabbage but has a very different appearance. The stems are thick and juicy and grow upright like celery. Both the stem and leaves can be chopped for use in stir fry or salads. Baby varieties can be split and grilled or quickly broiled for a beautiful side dish. Shanghai types have green stems and leaves. Canton types have bright white stems and green leaves. Bothe types come in baby and adult varieties.

Varieties include: Joi Choi F1 (large Canton), Toy Choy F1 (baby Canton), Petite Star F1 (baby Shanghai) Mei Qing Choi F1 (can be used as baby size or large size).

Transplant your cabbage to a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight daily. If possible transplant on a cooler day as opposed to a hot day. Spread your cabbage out at least twelve inches if you are doing a Chinese cabbage variety or twenty-four inches if you are going with the traditional head cabbage such as a flat dutch or brunswick. Your cabbage will get huge, so give them plenty of space. Once they are planted mulch around them to help your soil retain moisture levels and keep your soil temperature better regulated. Keep the soil around your cabbage plants moist by watering at least two inches per week.

Like all other plants, cabbage has its share of pests and diseases to keep an eye out for. Some are common around your garden like aphids, while others like the cabbageworm only rear their ugly heads when cabbage and other similar vegetables are planted. A remedy for the cabbageworm is plant some dill near your cabbage.

Harvest your cabbage when it gets to a desired size and firmness. If you cut the head of the cabbage off you may get a second head of cabbage. Don’t get too excited, the second head will be very small the temperatures in summer are usually too hot by the time cabbage matures. A second method is to pull the entire plant to harvest the head.

Resource: University of Minnesota Extension