Gardening Articles: Care :: Pests & Problems

Get A Head (page 2 of 4)

by Jack Ruttle

Four Kinds of Cabbage

There is a lot of variation within the cabbage clan and their very close relatives--brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and kale. Since all the cole crops can be crossed fairly easily, nearly anything is possible. Some of the kinds that gardeners can grow are rarely seen in commercial markets anymore. The simplest way to talk about the many types of cabbage is to group them according to the shape of the heads.

Pointed Heads

Pointed Heads
Pointed Head cabbage

This group (also called oxheart cabbage) used to be very popular. Today there are only a few cabbages from this group still readily available such as 'Arrowhead' and 'Early Jersey Wakefield'. 'Early Jersey Wakefield' has been popular for more than a hundred years. In its heyday it was notable for earliness, but nowadays, quite a few modern round cabbages can match its 60-plus days to maturity. What makes 'Jersey Wakefield' still worth planting are its tender, succulent leaves that make excellent, juicy summer coleslaw. Its rapid growth also means it's a good choice for a quick fall crop, though the heads don't store well. In the South, it's one of the best cabbages for planting in winter for a spring crop, resisting bolting better than many varieties.

Round Heads

Round Heads
Round Headed cabbage

Just as our national tastes have come to mean that virtually all tomatoes are red and round (though they could just as easily be golden and shaped like pears), market cabbages are all nearly round and nearly white. Most of them have been bred for resistance to one or more cabbage diseases. Ninety percent of seed catalogs' cabbage offerings will be in this group. Here are key traits to look for. Early round-head cabbages, like 'Dynamo' or 'Stonehead', ripen in 60 to 75 days. They tend to be soft and juicy, which makes them excellent for eating fresh, but they won't keep long.

Midseason and late round-head cabbages, sometimes called processing cabbages, these are drier and intended for slaw or sauerkraut. Midseason varieties, such as 'Blue Vantage' and 'Rio Verde', ripen in 75 to 90 days. The best keepers will be hard, dry and very white inside. They are the latest to ripen, taking three months or more to mature. 'Atria' will keep for three to four months, while varieties such as 'Missouri' and 'Storage No. 4' will keep up to eight months in cold storage.

For boiled cabbage, many people prefer a little more color; for that, savoy or red cabbage varieties are the best choices in a late cabbage. 'Savoy Ace' and 'Savoy Express' are two crinkly-leaved varieties with the pale yellow interior that makes the savoys so good for boiled cabbage. Red cabbages, like 'Red Acre' and 'Ruby Perfection', are prized for giving color to salads, though they also make good boiled cabbage.

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