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Feature Veggie: Cabbage

Cabbage (Brassica oleracea) is a member of the genus Brassica and the mustard family, Brassicaceae. Brassica derives from the Celtic word for cabbage, ‘bresic’. Several other cole crops are considered cultivars (varieties) of cabbage including broccoli, collard greens, brussels sprouts and kohlrabi. All of these developed from the wild cabbage, evolving over the years with the result being different characteristics such as large heads for cabbage, large leaves for kale and thick stems with flower buds for broccoli.

Like other members of the cabbage family, cabbage contains a powerful phytonutrient, sulforaphane, that boosts the body’s detoxification enzymes, and may reduce the risk of some forms of cancer. Cabbage is especially high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber. If you have never tried kimchi, Korean pickled cabbage, be sure to check it out on your next grocery store visit.

Last week in the greenhouse we seeded trays of two types of cabbage: Kalibos and Early Jersey Wakefield. Kalibos is a beautiful deep red and heart-shaped variety, typically used for pickling or in a slaw with a mild, sweet flavor. Early Jersey Wakefield is a variety that forms a cone-shaped dark green head, tasting smooth and sweet. Both types grow well in the Austin winter and are perfect for pickling, fermenting, steaming, stewing or sauteing.

Cabbage grown in cool weather becomes deliciously sweet. Once our seedling becomes 1-2 inches tall, we will transplant them to one of our farms named Terabithia, which has the ideal growing conditions for this vegetable: well-draining soil and full sun. Plant cabbage next to some thyme, to keep away the inevitable cabbage worms. Nitrogen is crucial to the seeds initial growth, making sure to add amendments to our starting soil such as compost or alfalfa meal. The outer leaves must be trimmed to keep the plant healthy. They are mature when firm and solid to the touch, harvested by cutting at the stalk below the bottom leaves with a sharp blade. A single cabbage can weigh up to 10 pounds when harvested! Though the average is closer to 2 pounds and we even aim closer for 1 to be more accommodating to a single meal.

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