Cabbage has always been a cold weather, comfort-food vegetable. Besides soup, one of our family’s favorite brisk winter night meals is Golabki (pronounced golumpki), a Polish dish made by my mother-in-law. Cabbage leaves are rolled around a meat and pork mixture, then baked while covered with a thin, sweet tomato sauce. My kids and husband like the meat mixture and I take all of their leftover cabbage- happily.
Because cabbage thrives in cooler weather, you can plant it in both early spring and for winter harvest. Most people have the best success (and best-tasting cabbage) by planting for late fall/early winter harvest. Cabbage is relatively easy to grow from seed and should be started indoors about four weeks before the last expected frost date, if you are planting in the spring for early harvest. For a late crop, sow your seeds in the garden in midsummer, ideally next to beans or corn or a tall crop that can provide some shade. Keep in mind that the closer you plant the cabbage seeds, the smaller the heads will be. Cabbage should be mulched heavily to keep moisture in the soil and regulate soil temperature. One odd note I found when researching cabbage- it’s a picky neighbor, meaning it will grow nicely when planted near beans and cucumbers, but will not tolerate being close to tomatoes, strawberries, cauliflower, or broccoli.
Although picking out the perfect spot for your cabbage seeds may make you feel that cabbage is a bit of a diva – let me assure you that it is a completely worthwhile crop. You can even manage to get two yields out of your cabbage plants by cutting the head out of the plant to harvest, but leaving behind the leaves and roots. The plant will set up new heads, so just pinch off most of them until a few smaller heads remain. And there is a great variety of cabbages available, from traditional tight-leaf versions to loose-leaf versions such as bok choy. If you want to try cabbage, and are hoping for success, check out a few of the varieties Gurney’s has to offer:
Gurney’s Choice Stonehead Hybrid Cabbage produces small heads that are about 4 to 6 pounds in weight. 4 – 6 pounds average. This variety rarely splits and resists pests and diseases, such as black rot. Golden Acre Cabbage is a great option for small gardens, as the heads are compact and don’t need much growing space. It also has a very sweet, mild flavor- not bitter- so a great choice for kids to try. China Star Cabbage is a great loose-leaf variety, perfect for salads and stir fries. Each head averages 3 to 4 pounds, and this variety is slow bolting.
Have you had any courageous cabbage champions? Or, have you experienced a cabbage catastrophe? Weigh in with your biggest and best stories. What varieties are you planting? What cabbage planting tips do you have?