thoughts on cabbage?

southerngardenchick(7)April 23, 2010

Hey everyone! Hope everyone is doing well. I'm sorry I haven't been online here lately, things have been so busy! The only reason I have time for this today is because me and my youngest both have the flu, lol. HAVE to stay still today... gosh durn it. (We will be fine, just cruddy today.)

Well, I got my first order from Baker's yesterday, just in time for Earth Day. I ordered the Yellow Monster pepper and Harlequin marigolds, and "How To Grow More Vegetables" (good DETAILED book). For my free gift, they sent me some cabbage seeds! Premium Late Flat Dutch, with a pic on the packet of a little boy holding a HUGE head of cabbage. NOW, I wasn't going to try growing cabbage... it's so cheap at the grocery store. But I can't NOT try to grow them now, can I? (lol) I figure I'm too late for this year, but I've got four seeds planted just to experiment.

Does cabbage grow better during the spring or fall for us southern gardeners?

What are the main problems with growing cabbage? Am I going to have to buy anything special to help it grow or keep pests off them?

What are the ways to store cabbage? Will I be making a bunch o' kraut if I have alot grow?

Thanks alot you guys!

p.s. Hey Diane! I'm glad your husband made it home okay! I did see your blog, just got busy and didn't comment, sorry! :)


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Hi, Beth, welcome back. We've missed you.

If I were going to raise Premium Late Flat Dutch, I would start the seeds in mid Jan to early Feb here in z6b and transplant out by mid March. And Dawn knows the technical name of the cabbage moth that lays eggs on cabbage that hatch into cabbage worms and loopers. You can either handpick or dust with Dipel. I've used that. Have also used Diatomaceous earth with less success.

Late Flat Dutch is a large headed type so a few plants will give you a lot of cabbage. I have kept a head of Early Jersey Wakefield for a couple months in the crisper of the frig and still used it.

On the subject of cabbage, I used to have a recipe for freezer slaw. You freeze it raw I think or maybe blanched with a dressing. If anyone knows how to do it, I would love to have the recipe again.

Sauerkraut is easy enough if you have a crock--and if you don't you can make smaller batches in gallon glass jars. One thing to beware of though is leaky crocks. I bought a new crock a couple years ago and the thing seeped liquid through the bottom of the crock. It wasn't glazed good enough. (They don't make 'em like they used to. My old crock didn't do that.)

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 3:33PM
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Thanks for the thoughts, girl! I do come online every once in awhile and read what ya'll are doing... just don't have time to log in and chat like I used to. My oldest is busy with highschool stuff, youngest is in preschool now... and we've had alot of people move in and out of our rentals. I've been cleaning like a madwoman. :)

So, I figured I was too late for this year. What about a fall planting? The only problem I see is that our temps tend to go from very hot to very cold really quickly. Might be a subject for a cold frame, hmmm?

I was hoping there was a way to freeze cabbage! I'll google it and see what I can come up with myself... will add it to this discussion if I find anything. I've got a good source for gallon glass jars too, so kraut wouldn't be a problem to make... I've been wanting to try that.

Well, ya'll have a good weekend! Looks like we've got some hairy weather coming our way, tornado watches in the central part of Arkansas... ugh.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 6:22PM
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Sure you can freeze cabbage. I forgot to tell you. I freeze some every year. Just blanche, chill in ice water and freeze. I like a little cabbage in beef stew, gotta have it with corn beef, and sometimes just eat it plain with salt and pepper and butter. I also juice cabbage with beets, apples and carrots and freeze in pint jars. A two or three day juice/raw veggie, nut and fruit fast a couple times each winter is supposed to be a detoxer. I usually do it in Jan after eating too much heavy food.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 9:02PM
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owiebrain(5 MO)

Hiya, Beth! I've been thinking about you recently, wondering how you were and, whammo, here you are! LOL

This is only my second year planting cabbage so I don't have a clue. Last year, I planted in the fall and got a good crop out of it, although the heads weren't as big as they could have been. (I had no clue on harvesting times so just picked 'em when I got nervous. LOL)

And, yep, you can freeze it, even without blanching. (I'm an anti-blancher purely out of laziness.) Last year, a friend gave me her recipe for freezer cabbage salad. I'll have to dig it up for you after we get back from the swap. Remind me!


    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 12:58AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Hi Beth,

It is good to see you back. We miss you when you're too busy to post.

Cabbage is a cool-season veggie and I think it does equally well if planted in late winter for harvest in summer or if planted in late summer for harvest in late fall or early winter. The advantage to planting in fall is that the cabbage worms and cabbage moths are not as active as they are in spring.

Cabbage is very cold hardy so it can be planted pretty early in winter....anytime that you think air temperatures will remain consistently above about 22-24 degrees or so. The key is they have to be hardened to cold temps before they're planted, otherwise the first night that temps drop below about 25 degrees, they're likely to suffer damage or die. Our winters are so erratic that this can be difficult. Still, I get a great cabbage harvest most years. Cabbage always is iffy as a spring crop because we can go from 'too cold' to 'too hot' almost overnight.

You'll get the best yield and the highest-quality cabbage if you plant it early enough that it does most of its growing before the daytime high temps begin regularly exceeding 65 degrees or so. Having said that, I've harvested perfectly good cabbage in mid- to late-June when temperatures are in the 90s as long as it gets adequate moisture.

One of the biggest problems with cabbage in our climate is that it can bolt and go to seed if the plants are exposed to temperatures in the low to mid-40s for an extended period of time. Like onions, they are biennials and will go to seed if exposed to cold temps for an extended period once they reach a certain size. I believe that is why cabbage has a reputation for being hard to grow in our climate.

If you want to plant for a fall harvest, try to start seeds about 12 weeks before your average first fall freeze. This will give your cabbage the best chance to grow properly and head up.

In addition to the problems caused by temperatures that get too hot (or too cold) at the wrong time, cabbage loopes and imported cabbage worms both eat big holes in the leaves. Prevent them with regular applications of Bt, the active ingredient in Thuricide and Dipel and similar caterpillar killers.

Cabbages also are prone to many foliar diseases which can ruin the crop, mostly those that are fungal in nature. These include downy mildew and alternaria. Regular treatment with fungicides may be needed to prevent these.

Cabbages are huge space hogs. The ones in my garden, which probably were started from seed indoors in Feb. and transplanted out in early- to mid-March, are now about 24" across, so give them wide spacing.

Cababge will store quite a while....a month or two in a fridge, but of course, you don't want to fill up your refrigerator with 19 heads of cabbage. You can make sauerkraut or freezer slaw.

Like Diane, I have a freezer slaw recipe somewhere, and I'll try to dig it up....unless she beats me to it and posts hers first, because likely they are pretty much the same recipe. I'm now back from the swap, but too tired to remember where the recipe is. I'll get right on it tomorrow though.

Aside from the fact that you have to spray with Bt to prevent damage from the caterpillers, I think cabbage is incredibly easy to grow. You harvest it when it nears the DTM you know from your seed packet (if you can remember it). Otherwise, you harvest it when the heads feel solid and firm. Also, your heads should be about the expected mature size for whatever variety you're growing, but in a very rainy year, they'll get bigger and the opposite is true in a very dry year.

As with just about every other oool season crop we try to grow here, the main issue is how quickly we go from too hot to too oold or vice versa. One thing I really like about cabbage is that it is not picky, picky, picky about soil. It grows well on clay....perhaps even better than it does on more well-draining sandy and sandy loam soils. It is shallow-rooted and dries out quickly so clay's ability to hold moisture helps produce a great cabbage crop.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 9:46PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Here's ways to preserve your cabbage:

(1) To freeze it: Pick it while the heads are green (unless it is purple or red cabbage) and firm, and not overripe. Wash it well. Cut into wedges or shred it using a food processor. Blanch it for 2-3 minutes using either steam blanching or 1.5-2 minutes if blanching by boiling. Drain well. Pack into freezer containers or bags, seal, label and freeze. You can use frozen cabbage in any recipe that calls for cabbage to be cooked although the texture may be different than if you used fresh cabbage.

(2) Cold Storage. You can store cabbage for up to 2 to 4 months if you can keep it close to but always above 32 degrees. We use an old refrigerator in the garage for long-term cold storage like this.

(3) Root Cellar Storage. In our climate, this works better for fall-harvested cabbage than for spring- or summer-harvested cabbage. If you have a root cellar, or even a smaller storage pit like an old refrigerator or trash can sunk into the ground, you can store your cabbage this way. Remove the outer roots and wrap each head in newspaper and store in boxes in your basement or tornado shelter (if you have one and can spare the space), or if you have a real root cellar, you can store it in damp sand.

(4) You can make freezer slaw using plastic freezer jars or other freezer containers. Here's a recipe:

Freezer Slaw (yield: 5 pints)

2 lbs. cabbage
1 large green sweet pepper
3 large carrots
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water

Shred the cabbage, pepper and carrots. Add the chopped onion to them and mix them together well. Sprinkle salt over them and let sit for one hour. At the end of the hour, drain well. Comine the remaining ingredients in a saucepot, bring to a full boil and boil for 3 minutes. Remove saucepot from burner and let mixture cool. Ladle the liquid mixture over the cabbage/vegetable mixture and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir well and then pack into plastic freezer jars or containers, leaving 1/2" headspace. Seal, label, freeze. To serve, remove from freezer and thaw in refrigerator for 8 hours before serving.

(5) You can make sauerkraut and I'm sure you remember Dorothy's great description of how she does it in a thread on this forum last year.

(6) You can use it in several canning recipes, including these: Chow Chow Relish, Dixie Relish and Spiced Red Cabbage, all of which are found in the most current edition of the Ball Blue Book. You also can use it in older recipes found in the Ball Complete Book of Preserving, which has recipes that include cabbage, including Piccalilli Relish, Red Root Relish, Sweet and Sour Pickle Relish, and Traditional Corn Relish. If your family likes Borscht, you can use cabbage to make and can it.

(7) You can use it to make kimchi, kimuchi or Turkish pickled cabbage, which is more like kimchi than sauerkraut. If you want to try any of those or one of the many other pickled cabbage, one of my pickling books has tons of recipes for various pickled cabbages, including Lemony Pickled Cabbage, Cortido and Kimchi Kraut. Any time you (or anyone) need a pickling recipe, let me know and I'll find you one. I have a lot of pickling recipes.

Now for a silly cabbage story. In the 1980s-early 1990s, I worked for a major defense contractor in Fort Worth. My boss's boss for several years was a superbly wonderful man named Glenn Cole. We used to tease him about having his own law....kind of like Murphy's Law, you know, but we called it Cole's Law. He was a guy with a great sense of humor, so whenever we mentioned Cole's Law, he'd play along and say "Cole's Law? What's that?" to which we'd reply "thinly sliced cabbage". It always made us laugh even in the middle of a very hectic day. I still think of him every time I hear the words "cole slaw".

Hope the cabbage info helps and that you didn't mind the Cole's Law story.


    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 11:00AM
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LOL... I know a couple of Cole's and will be using that joke a.s.a.p.! :)

Thank you guys! I feel better prepared for trying this cabbage thing now. At first I thought it'd be something too different, now I think it'll fit into the whole plan pretty well.

And I promise that I'll post and/or comment over here more often! It's not like I don't come over here and read up on what's going on... just don't feel like my beginner opinion is needed much, lol!

Now I'm going back to my couch, this spring cold/flu or whatever it is I've got is kicking me in the booty. UGH. I hate being incapacitated when there's so much to do! Love you guys! Glad ya'll had fun at the Spring Fling! One day... maybe I'll make the journey. :)


    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 12:58PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I know....that's why I thought you'd like the Cole's Law joke.

We always enjoy hearing from you...even if you only drop in to say "hi, I am still alive". lol

I hope you feel better has been an awful pollen year here and everyone has had horrible allergy problems that then turn into throat or sinus infections, bronchitis, etc.

I hope you can make it to one of the plant swaps one of these days. We have such a good time at those get-togethers.


    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 11:17PM
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