Cabbage: Not Just Another Brassica
Cabbage is in the brassica family, meaning it's a relative of kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, but it's immensely popular because it's versatile in the kitchen, it's palatable, and it's attractive in the garden. Like all brassica plants, cabbage grows best in cooler temperatures.
Cabbage varieties grow loose-leaved or globe-shaped. Most cabbage fans are accustomed to the fully round globe-shaped heads, like grocery store varieties. Follow the â€˜days to maturity' instructions for the varieties you grow, and you'll find cabbage to be a very dependable crop, both in ease of growing and reliable date to harvest.
Harvesting cabbage is a cinch and only requires patience and a sharp knife. Wait until the head reaches mature size, per the growing directions, and simply slice it right off the stalk, cutting straight across. In hotter climates, some varieties of spring cabbage can be planted in late fall for a spring harvest. If you live in a climate with cool falls and non-freezing temps in the winter, you can get a full second crop after the first early fall harvest by following this simple tip: when your cabbage is ready to harvest, cut it off its stem just below the globe. Allow the stalk to remain in the ground, but use your sharp blade to cut a cross in the top of the stalk and it should regenerate four new plants!
Cabbage can be harvested for immediate consumption raw or cooked, or it can be stored in plastic in a refrigerator for a couple of weeks. It will keep well in a root cellar environment (dark and cool, buried in sawdust) for up to a couple months past harvest.
After cutting the globes off of their stalks, don't rinse if they're to be stored for later consumption. Leave the outer leaves intact. However, prior to preparing them for use raw or cooked, the tough, dark outer leaves should be removed. Never slice cabbage heads until they're ready for use in recipes.
Cabbage is a high-nutrient, high-fiber, and high-flavor vegetable and once cooked, it freezes well in stews and soups, and it preserves well in krauts. Raw, it's popular in Asian and Latin American salads.