Cabbage grows best in zones 1-9. Cabbage is a member of the Brassica family, which includes broccoli, collard greens, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and mustard greens. These plants are commonly referred to as crucifer crops. Plants within this family tend to have hearty leaves and grow best in cool weather, tolerating frost. The ideal temperature for growing cabbages is around 60 F. Planting cabbages in temperature higher than 75 F can induce bolting. Cabbages thrive in full sun while shade can slow the growing process. They can grow up to 1-2 feet tall and 1.5-3 feet wide. Their colors range from light green, medium green, and dark green to red and purple, often containing bluish tones.
Cabbage requires well-drained, fertile soil with consistent moisture (2). It is best to propagate cabbage from seed. Note that sprouts emerge within 4 to 7 days. The plant can be directly seeded in well-worked soil and should be planted in the summer for a fall crop. If directly seeded, soil must be above 40 F to ensure germination. Plants should be spaced at least 12 inches apart, allowing them space to grow. Cabbages can be planted in companionship with celery, dill, onion, potato, and chamomile. Interspersing clover with cabbages can decrease the prevalence of cabbageworms and native cabbage aphids by increasing the population of predatory ground beetles (4). Cabbage pests include the cabbage worm, cabbage aphid, cabbage root maggot, cut worm, slug, and nematode (2). Pay special attention to cabbage worms, which are green caterpillars that can weaken the plants’ fibers as they eat the leaves and burrow into the cabbage’s heads. Spraying neem oil, which acts as a natural insecticide, on the plants can reduce pest infestation (12). When harvesting, simply remove firm cabbages by cutting at the base of the heads.
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
Cabbage, most famously used in sauerkraut, has a breadth of culinary uses and healing properties. Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage that contains lactobacilli, which are beneficial bacteria for the digestive tract. It is made by combining shredded cabbage with salt, water, and other optional spices. Cabbage can be steamed, boiled, or eaten raw. It has been used for stomach pain, excess stomach acid, stomach and intestinal ulcers, as well as preventing osteoporosis and stomach, colon, and lung cancer (5). Cabbage juice has been shown to rapidly reduce peptic ulcers (6) and adding cabbage to the diet can reduce the risk of colon, prostate, and breast cancer. Research shows cabbage to have the highest antioxidant profile of any vegetable in the cruciferous family. These antioxidants stimulate detoxifying enzymes and account for the plant’s ability to prevent various types of cancers. Cabbage contains 85% of the daily requirement of vitamin K and provides significant amounts of iron, vitamin C, and fiber. The high amount of B-vitamins contained within cabbage support high levels of energy and may slow brain shrinkage in areas associated with Alzheimer’s disease (7). Cabbage juice stimulates the production of stomach acid, which is necessary for healthy digestion. Cabbage leaf can also be used as an anti-inflammatory compress and has been used to reduce breast swelling during breast feeding (8). Cabbage is cooked in conjunction with fatty pork in Jewish dishes and with corned beef in Irish dishes. Soaking cabbage in vinegar can reduce gas.
Significance to Cultural Communities
Cabbage, used especially in fermented form, is common in cultures all over the world. The Chinese Cabbage, also known as Napa Cabbage, is a staple of the Korean diet and has been used to make Kimchi (9). The Dutch has brought sauerkraut on long voyages as it requires no refrigeration and contains a high source of vitamin C that can prevent scurvy. Sauerkraut, which is German for “sour cabbage,” is a staple of the winter diet in Germany, the Netherlands, as well as other parts of Eastern Europe (11). Stuffed cabbage is eaten throughout Eastern Europe and Turkey. Finely shredded cabbage is used in Indian dishes such as upama. Cabbage accompanies potato in the Irish staple: Colcannon. In China and Thailand, bok choy and napa cabbage are common ingredients in stir fried dishes and soups (12).
1. Kemble, J.M., G.W. Zehnder, E.J. Sikora, and M.G. Patterson. Universities Guide to Commercial Cabbage Production. Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Web. <http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1135/ANR-1135.pdf>.
2. "Explore Cornell - Home Gardening - Vegetable Growing Guides - Growing Guide." Explore Cornell - Home Gardening - Vegetable Growing Guides - Growing Guide. Cornell University, Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene5fdd.html>.
3. "Cabbage." Cabbage Planting Dates Vegetables Outdoors Gardening. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <http://www.almanac.com/plant/cabbage>.
4. "Resources." UIC Heritage Garden. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <http://uicheritagegarden.org/resources.html>. - Companion Planting Guide
5. "Cabbage: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings - WebMD." WebMD. WebMD, Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-171-cabbage.aspx?activeingredientid=171&activeingredientname=cabbage>.
6. Cheney, Garnett. "Abstract." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 30 Apr. 0005. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1643665/>.
7. "Eating Cabbage Helps in Cancer Prevention." Mercola.com. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/08/03/cabbage.aspx>.
8. "The Best Natural Cabbage Cures." The Best Natural Cabbage Cures. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <http://www.earthclinic.com/remedies/cabbage.html>.
9. "Chinese Cabbage." Only Foods. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <http://www.onlyfoods.net/chinese-cabbage.html>.
10. The Kitchen Project. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <http://kitchenproject.com/history/sauerkraut.htm>.
11."Practice Organic Cabbage Worm Control for a Chemical-Free Garden."Mother Earth News. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/organic-cabbage-worm-control-zw0z1303zkin.aspx#axzz3DUxXWlHE>.
12."Vegetarians in Paradise/Cabbage History, Cabbage Nutrition, Cabbage Recipe." Vegetarians in Paradise/Cabbage History, Cabbage Nutrition, Cabbage Recipe. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <http://www.vegparadise.com/highestperch33.html>.