Cabbage is a cool-season vegetable that has been cultivated for thousands of years and was used as food and medicine by the ancient Romans. In later centuries, this humble vegetable was eaten only when other foods were in short supply because of its distinctive odour, and a pot of cabbage cooking over the fire would be found in the homes of the peasants rather than in those of the upper classes.
Cabbage bursts with vitamin C and has significant levels of manganese, iron and vitamin B6. It’s high in dietary fibre and low in kilojoules, which makes it excellent if you’re watching your weight.
Prepare the soil
Dig in a generous amount of well-rotted organic matter.
Plant the seedlings
Cabbage seeds can be sown directly in the beds in clumps (remove all but the strongest seedling when they are ready to thin out), but the plants are usually raised from seedlings. Space small varieties up to 50 centimetres apart and leave more room between larger varieties. As one family can’t eat cabbage after cabbage, you can plant them at various times throughout the year to ensure a permanent supply. (We suggest you plant no more than 10 cabbages at each planting.) Water regularly (not too much in winter-rainfall areas) and apply water-soluble fertiliser every two to three weeks.
What can go wrong?
Cabbage moth caterpillars and butterflies can be controlled with organic insecticides. Black leg fungus causes the stems to blacken at the level of the soil. Try an organic fungicide and scrape the adjacent soil away. If unsuccessful, you may have to remove the plant. Black leg fungus can remain in the soil for several years, so don’t plant cabbages, cauliflowers or Brussels sprouts in the affected bed for two seasons.
Harvest your cabbages when the heads are still small and yield to pressure (eight to 10 weeks for small varieties). This vegetable is often seen as boring, but cabbage is really good in stir-fries, salads, soups or wrapped around a savoury filling and braised.