Cole crops is the general term used to describe broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale and kohlrabi. Harvesting these vegetables at the right stage of maturity results in nutritious, high quality produce – which is awesome news for February 17, National Cabbage Day!
It almost seems like Cabbage Day is scheduled a month too early, since St. Patrick’s Day is March 17 and what is St. Patty’s Day without corned beef and cabbage? Nonetheless, today we celebrate this hardy and useful vegetable.
There are several cultivars of cabbage that can come in green, red or white. Cabbage was most likely domesticated somewhere in Europe before 1000 BCE, making it a plant with a substantial past. Cabbage use in cuisine has been documented since Antiquity (the period of cultural history between the 8th century BCE and the 5th century CE). Cabbage was considered a luxury in the Roman Empire. By the Middle Ages, the veggie had become a prominent part of European cuisine.
Why has cabbage been kept around for so long? It’s likely because it can be prepared many different ways for eating. It can be pickled, fermented (for dishes such as sauerkraut or kimchi), steamed, stewed, roasted, sautéed, braised or eaten raw. Raw cabbage is a great source of vitamin K, vitamin C and dietary fiber.
When growing cabbage, remember that plants perform best in well-drained soil in a location that receives full sun. Different varieties prefer different soil types, ranging from lighter sand to heavier clay, but all prefer fertile ground with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. There needs to be adequate levels of nitrogen in the soil, especially during the early head formation stage, and sufficient phosphorus and potassium during the early stages of expansion of the outer leaves.
Temperatures between 39º and 75º F prompt the best growth. Flowering induced by periods of low temperatures (a process called vernalization) only occurs if the plant is past the juvenile period. Vernalization allows the plant to grow to an adequate size before flowering. In the Country Culture region, cabbage can be planted at the beginning of the cold period and survive until a later warm period without being induced to flower – a cole crop that likes the cold.
Want to enjoy some cabbage goodness today? This blog features 35 different sauerkraut recipes!