Home Cabbage Cultivation

Social cachet may not be among them, but cabbage cultivation offers multiple advantages: The plant is productive, nutritious, visually appealing and easy to grow.

| April/May 2009

  • Red cabbage in basket
    Cabbage is dependable, productive and beautiful!
    DAVID CAVAGNARO
  • Storage cabbage
    Cabbage with their outer leaves stripped for winter storage.
    LYNN KARLIN
  • Green and white cabbage
    ‘Kaitlin’ is a late-season variety that will store until December or January.
    JOHNNY'S SELECTED SEEDS
  • Pointed cabbage
    ‘Caraflex,’ a pointed, mini variety.
    JOHNNY'S SELECTED SEEDS
  • cabbage cultivation - decorative cabbage
    Whether for nutrition or decoration, cabbage cultivation is a worthy endeavor. Varieties range in color from nearly white to dark purple (plus all shades of green).
    PHOTO: JERRY PAVIA
  • Chinese cabbage
    ‘Bilko,’ a Napa cabbage.
    JOHNNY'S SELECTED SEEDS
  • Head of red cabbage
    ‘Regal Red’ variety.
    DWIGHT KUHN
  • Cut red cabbage
    Powerful antioxidants (anthocyanins) give purple cabbage its color.
    DWIGHT KUHN
  • Cabbage plants mulched with straw
    Cabbage plants need little attention, but do require a steady supply of water.
    JERRY PAVIA
  • Making sauerkraut
    Sauerkraut is easy to make.
    LYNN KARLIN
  • 'Early Jersey Wakefield' cabbage
    'Early Jersey Wakefield'
    SOUTHERN EXPOSURE SEED EXCHANGE
  • 'Ruby Perfection' cabbage
    'Ruby Perfection'
    JERRY PAVIA
  • 'Deadon' cabbage
    'Deadon'
    JOHNNY'S SELECTED SEEDS
  • 'Kaitlin' cabbage
    'Kaitlin'
    JOHNNY'S SELECTED SEEDS

  • Red cabbage in basket
  • Storage cabbage
  • Green and white cabbage
  • Pointed cabbage
  • cabbage cultivation - decorative cabbage
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Head of red cabbage
  • Cut red cabbage
  • Cabbage plants mulched with straw
  • Making sauerkraut
  • 'Early Jersey Wakefield' cabbage
  • 'Ruby Perfection' cabbage
  • 'Deadon' cabbage
  • 'Kaitlin' cabbage

Home cabbage cultivation isn’t what it used to be. One popular national catalog this year features 31 varieties of tomatoes, 19 peppers, and a whopping two types of cabbage. But don’t fret! Many varieties of cabbage are still available from other sources.

What cabbage lacks in sex appeal and trendiness, it more than makes up for in dependability and productivity, two qualities that position it for a rebound in tough economic times. You may or may not get that temperamental crop of Brandywine tomatoes or heat-loving jalapeños, but with a little work and care, you can always count on cabbage. And people have done just that throughout the ages.

In ancient times, cabbage was king. The Roman soldier and statesman Cato the Elder may have been its most vocal and passionate advocate. Cato touted cabbage as a pre-emptive hangover cure, urging his compatriots to eat large quantities of it raw with vinegar as an appetizer to counter the effects of heavy eating and drinking. Its medicinal qualities were so powerful, Cato claimed, that they transformed habitual cabbage eaters’ urine into a salve that could be applied to sores and used for bathing sickly newborns. One can only imagine if Cato were alive today and writing seed catalog descriptions!

Cabbage’s greatest virtue throughout the ages, though, has been as a reliable source of sustenance and vitamins during the cold months of the year. From ancient times to the present, east to west and north to south, cabbage has been a staple for farmers, peasants, and homesteaders. It withstands the last frosts of spring, the first frosts of fall, and stores well in a cold cellar. It can be shredded and eaten raw in the form of coleslaw, cooked in soups and stews, or pickled into sauerkraut or kimchi, sauerkraut’s spicy Asian equivalent.



You can try many types of cabbage. The most popular types in the United States are the smooth-leaved green and red varieties that form round, compact heads. Savoy varieties — smooth cabbage’s wrinkled, crinkled cousins — have been gaining popularity as eaters become more adventuresome in both their tastes and textures. For those people who really want to “think outside the ball,” there are curious cone-shaped types and the upright Chinese and Napa varieties, which are in fact more closely related to turnips.

Simple to Grow

Cabbage plants can be started easily from seed, either indoors in flats for spring transplanting or directly into the soil for late and storage varieties. The advantage to growing from seed is you have a much wider selection of varieties than the seedlings you’re likely to find at a local greenhouse or farmers market.






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