Friday, January 8, 2010

Growing Cabbage

Food of the Month: Cabbage

Kicking off a new feature for 2010, Ithaca's Food Web is introducing the humble cabbage as our very first food of the month.  Throughout the rest of January, we will have information about growing, cooking, and preserving it -- and more.

Growing Cabbage

When I was writing "Cabbage County" for the winter issue of Edible Finger Lakes, one of the farmers I spoke with said that growing cabbage was a "no-brainer" for vegetable farmers, who generally grow either fresh cabbage (for selling whole or for processing into cole slaw) or 'kraut cabbage (for sauerkraut processing).

Of course, that doesn't mean growing cabbage is a no-brainer for backyard gardeners.

The Cornell Vegetable Growing Guide calls cabbage "moderately difficult." Seedlings are often started indoors and then transplanted outside, where they require full sun, good soil, regular moisture, and protection from pests, like aphids, worms, beetles, and maggots, and diseases like clubroot.

Looking for something unusual?  Although big producers generalize between fresh and kraut varieties, backyard gardeners can choose among lots of diversity: green cabbage, red cabbage, savoy cabbage,  Chinese cabbage (also called Napa), and more.  There's even a cabbage research facility hiding in central New York -- I'll post about that sometime in the future...

When I bought an heirloom variety (sorry, don't know the name) at the Ithaca Farmers Market a few months ago, I was surprised at how light it felt.  Some varieties grow much less dense than conventional heads.  Others actually grow with pointy heads, others grow in a kind of flat-ish squashed manner, and still others grow with frilly green leaves.

Varieties recommended for NYS include:
Early: Jersey Wakefield, Heads Up, Pacifica, Tastie
Midseason: Chieftain Savoy, Lennox, Market Prize, Ruby Perfection, Savoy Ace, Savoy King
Late: Huron
Chinese cabbage: Blues, Jade Pagoda

You can look up specific varieties and read reviews at Cornell's Vegetable Varieties site.

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