Cabbage is a popular part of diets around the world. This vegetable's strong flavor and color enhance dozens of vegetable recipes. In this article, we'll talk about growing cabbage, selecting and serving cabbage, and the health benefits of cabbage.

rows of cabbage crops
Cabbage is a cool-weather crop. See more pictures of vegetables.

About Cabbage

Cabbage is a hardy biennial that is grown as an annual. It has an enlarged terminal bud made of crowded and expanded overlapping leaves shaped into a head. The leaves are smooth or crinkled in shades of green or purple. The head can be round, flat, or pointed. Cabbage is easy to grow in the home garden.

Common Name: Cabbage
Scientific Name: Brassica oleracea; Capitata Group
Hardiness:
Very Hardy (will survive first frost)

In the next section, we'll show you how to grow cabbage.

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Growing Cabbage

Cabbage is a great plant for your home vegetable garden. It is easy to grow in a home garden, and, once harvested, can be enjoyed in numerous dishes.

Cabbage is a cool-weather crop that can tolerate frost but not heat. If the plants are cold for too long, or if the weather is too warm, the plants will bolt (go to seed without forming a head). If the head has already formed, it will split in hot weather. Splitting happens when the plant takes up water so fast the excess cannot escape through the tightly overlapped leaves, and the head bursts.

Illustration of row of cabbage
Cabbage is a great choice for home vegetable gardens.

Cabbage likes fertile, well-drained soil with a pH in the 6.5 to 7.5 range. Cabbages are usually grown from transplants. Where there's a long cool period, seed can be sown directly in the garden in the fall for winter harvest. Plant transplants that are four to six weeks old; plant two to three weeks before the average date of the last frost.

Harvesting Cabbage

Cabbages mature in 60 to l05 days from transplants. To harvest, cut off the head, leaving the outer leaves on the stem.

Types of Cabbage

There are hundreds of varieties of cabbage, with green cabbage being the most familiar. Below are four of the most common varieties of cabbage.
  • Earliana, harvest at 60 days from transplants, is a small, compact early variety.
  • Early Jersey Wakefield, harvest at 63 days, produces heads that are full-sized, pointed, and with a sweet flavor.
  • Ruby Ball, harvest at 68 days, produces purple heads that are four to six pounds; it is an All America Selection.
  • Cairo, harvest at 85 days, is an excellent red that is disease resistant.
Selecting cabbage is important to enjoying it in your favorite recipes. Keep reading to learn how to select and prepare cabbage.

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Selecting Cabbage

Cabbage is a vegetable few people really appreciate, but it's truly a vegetable lover's friend. It is strong-flavored, but it's this feature that makes it enjoyable in many dishes.

head of green cabbage
Choose cabbage with a
tight, compact head.

When choosing green and red cabbage, pick a tight, compact head that feels heavy for its size. It should look crisp and fresh, with few loose leaves. Leafy varieties should be green, with stems that are firm, not limp. Store whole heads of cabbage in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. If uncut, compact heads keep for a couple of weeks. Leafy varieties should be used within a few days.

Tips for Preparing and Serving Cabbage

Discard outer leaves if loose or limp, cut into quarters, then wash. When cooking quarters, leave the core in as this prevents the leaves from tearing apart. If shredding cabbage for coleslaw, core the cabbage first. But don't shred ahead of time; once you do, enzymes begin destroying vitamin C.

Forget old-fashioned corned beef and cabbage recipes. More nutrients will be preserved and the cabbage will taste better if it is cooked only until slightly tender, but still crisp -- about 10 to 12 minutes for wedges, five minutes if shredded. Red cabbage takes a few minutes more; leafy varieties cook faster. To solve cabbage's notorious stink problem, steam it in a small amount of water for a short time and do not cook it in an aluminum pan. Uncover briefly, shortly after cooking begins, to release the sulfur smell.

Combine red and green cabbage for a more interesting cole slaw. Bok choy and napa cabbage work well in stir-fry dishes. Savoy is perfect for stuffing.

Keep reading to learn about the health benefits of cabbage.

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Health Benefits of Cabbage

Although there are many varieties of cabbage, each provides unique and strong health benefits. When incorporating cabbage into your diet, avoid overcooking it -- more nutrients are preserved if it's cooked just until slightly tender.

Health Benefits of Cabbage

heads of red cabbage
Red cabbage has health benefits
similar to green cabbage.

Cabbage ranks right up there with broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts with a reputation for fighting cancer. It's also a good source of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and other nutrients. Cabbage also offers a major payoff -- the fewest calories and least fat of any vegetable.

From green cabbage you'll enjoy a fiber boost and a respectable amount of vitamin C. Two types of cabbage, savoy and bok choy, provide beta-carotene -- an antioxidant that battles cancer and heart disease. For those who don't eat dairy products, bok choy is an important source of calcium, which may help prevent osteoporosis and aid in controlling blood pressure.

The phytochemicals in cabbage, called indoles, are also being studied for their ability to convert estradiol, an estrogen-like hormone that may play a role in the development of breast cancer, into a safer form of estrogen -- powerful incentives to add cabbage to your diet.

Nutritional Values of Fresh and Cooked Green Cabbage
Serving Size: 1/2 cup chopped
Calories 16
Fat <1 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrate 4 g
Protein 1 g
Dietary Fiber
1.4 g
Sodium 6 mg
Vitamin C
15 mg

Want more information about cabbage? Try:
  • Vegetable Recipes: Find delicious recipes that feature cabbage.
  • Nutrition: Find out how cabbage fits in with your overall nutrition plans.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.