CROPSHARE #4: Cabbage
Cabbage, together with other well-known plants in the brassica family, such as kale, brussel sprouts and cauliflower, is a descendant of a wild cabbage or Brassica olaracea. You can find wild cabbage growing in coastal areas on cliffs around Southern and Western Europe.
Although it is harvested annually for its leafy heads, it is a biennial plant, which means it goes through its full growth cycle in two years, by the end of which it produces cross-like flowers, hence the name cruciferous.
Cabbage comes in two basic colours- red and green, with lots of minor variations within different varieties. There are hundreds of varieties of cabbage growing world-wide, but the most common ones are red, white, savoy, pointed (also called hispi or sweet heart), Bok Choy and Chinese cabbage.
Cabbages contain glucosinolates, which are sulfur containing compounds that give cabbages their specific flavour and aroma and are thought to be preventative of some chronic diseases. Cabbage is a good source of dietary fibre and vitamins K and C. They are also thought to have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cabbage can be eaten raw in slaws, sautéed, stir-fried, added to soups and stews or even fermented and pickled. The main thing to be aware of when cooking cabbage is to not overcook it. It should still be slightly crunchy, and retain some of its colour. Boiled or steamed for a few minutes, it can be stirred into mashed potatoes as in Irish colcannon, or it could be stir-fried with a bit of garlic, ginger and dressed with soy sauce.
You can find a recipe for sauerkraut on the food blog of our food co-ordinator Vaida (Basic Sauerkraut Recipe)
Cabbage can be a trickier brassica to grow. However, if you get the timing right for planting and protection, it can be worth it.
There are three kinds of cabbages: spring cabbages, summer cabbages and winter cabbages with different plantings for each.
Spring cabbage: Sow in July/August; transplant in September/October.
Summer cabbage: Sow from late February/early March (under cloches or similar cover) until early May; transplant in May/June.
Winter cabbages: Sow in April/May; transplant in late June/July.
Cabbage, like other brassicas, can be vulnerable to cabbage white-fly. We recommend using a mesh to protect the crops until they are outside of the egg-laying cycle. Young seedlings can also be vulnerable to slugs and snails, so we set out beer traps!
Like all brassicas, there is a risk of club-root which you really don't want because it can prevent you growing brassicas for a long time, so make sure you have a 3-4 year gap between each planting of brassicas in a bed.