Preferring the cool climates of temperate and northern zones, cabbages are especially well suited to being our neighbors!
To grow them, seedlings can be started indoors about a month before the garden transplanting date, or simply pick up young plants at a garden center. They’re planted in full sun, in fresh well-drained soil rich in organic matter, with a pH between 6 and 7. Clay soils suit them perfectly, but you can also get good results in sandy soil enriched with compost or composted manure, irrigated as required. Since cabbages react badly to a shortage of water, apply organic mulch (straw, shredded bark, woodchips, buckwheat hulls, and so on) to keep the soil wet, and water during dry spells. For top performance, treat monthly with natural fertilizers (liquid manure, seaweed, fish emulsion…).
Origin and diversity
The varieties of cabbage cultivated today have their source in a wild species (Brassica oleracea), which grows naturally on the rocky coasts of western and southernEurope. Domesticated and hybridized for millennia, this little plant, originally leafy, has given birth to astonishingly varied offspring: kale, head cabbage, savoy cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, etc. All these cabbages are part of the great brassica family, otherwise known as “crucifers” because of their four-petal flowers in the shape of a cross.
Cabbage is good for you!
The medicinal properties of cabbages have been recognized and appreciated for a very long time. For northern peoples these vegetables have long been an important source of vitamin C – an antiscorbutic – during the cold season. They contain numerous minerals, including several sulphur compounds, which is what lends them that particular smell that people either love or hate. Cabbage is eaten raw, cooked or lactofermented (sauerkraut). Analyses have demonstrated that, of all the vegetables we consume, cabbages contain the greatest variety of anticancer agents, notably polyphenols, glucosinolates and sulforaphanes. Broccoli and Brussels sprouts are outstanding sources of them. And finally, did you know that broccoli seed sprouts contain a hundred times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli? Stick some in your sandwiches!