When to harvest cabbage?

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Like most unsung heroes, cabbage has long been underestimated. Fermented cabbage, or sauerkraut, was eaten by sailors in the 17th and 18th centuries to prevent scurvy on long voyages. Romans and Egyptians also heralded the medicinal properties of cabbage, using it to dress battle wounds.

Benefits of Cabbage

Through the miracle of modern medicine, scurvy is no longer the scourge of the sea, and we prefer to wrap our injuries in gauze rather than leafy greens. Despite this, cabbage still offers many nutritional advantages.

  • As a cold-weather crop, this vegetable is an ideal way to get the vitamin C your body needs to boost the immune system in winter.
  • Digestive fiber helps keep you running efficiently while detoxifying your system.
  • Sulforaphane, a chemical found in cabbage, broccoli and other related vegetables, reduces the risk of rectal, prostate, breast, lung, stomach and colon cancer.
  • Cabbage is, as the Romans suspected, anti-inflammatory. You can apply it to scrapes, cuts or scars to alleviate pain and infection.

Cabbage Production

  • These succulent spheres are best from late fall to early spring and make the perfect addition to any winter meal.
  • Cabbage can grow in all 50 states, but it flourishes in New York, California, Texas and Wisconsin. You can start cabbage from seeds indoors and transplant it in early spring. Alternatively, you can plant it from seeds for fall.
  • Seeds should be placed 15 to 18 inches apart and fertilized.
  • Cabbage prefers moist (but not soggy) conditions.
  • It can take 70 to 100 days for a full head of cabbage to develop.
  • Harvest cabbage when the head is completely firm.
  • Avoid picking split or damaged heads.
  • To harvest, cut the stalk at the lowest point possible, leaving the outer leaves intact.
  • Raw cabbage can be refrigerated in plastic wrap or Tupperware for weeks.
  • To store for months, blanch cabbage in boiling water and place in an airtight plastic bag in the freezer.

Choosing Cabbage

While there are many different shapes, colors and sizes, there are a few common cabbage varieties grown in the U.S:

  • Green Cabbage – Smooth, green leaves
  • Red Cabbage – Smooth reddish leaves, has a high level of vitamins A and C
  • Savoy Cabbage – Crinkled, dark leaves

Cabbage Preparation

Throughout history, cabbage has been a staple in many different cultures. There are numerous ways to prepare this versatile vegetable.

  • Roast, sauté, boil, steam or even fry your cabbage.
  • Cabbage can be fermented into sauerkraut or shredded for coleslaw.
  • For a nice crunch, add cabbage to your dish as a garnish.
  • Avoid overcooking, lest you destroy the numerous health benefits of eating cabbage.

SEE MORE: What’s in Season: Spinach

Cabbage Recipes

You can use cabbage in a variety of fresh, crisp recipes or in warming comfort food dishes. Try cabbage in a few of our favorite delicious recipes below:

What’s In Season When

Eating British fruits and vegetables in season is good for you. Foods in season contain the nutrients, minerals and trace elements that our bodies need at particular times of the year. British food travels less far from farm to shop so regardless of how carbon footprints are calculated it self-evidently has a lower carbon footprint.

Choosing British means supporting British farmers whose work helps to keep the British countryside the way we want it to look!


Meat: Beef Steaks – Chicken – Sausages – Spring Lamb

Vegetables: Asparagus – Carrots – Cauliflowers – Celeriac – Cucumbers – Curly Kale – Purple Sprouting Broccoli – Savoy Cabbage – Sorrel – Spinach – Spring Greens – Spring Onion – Watercress

Fruit: Gooseberries – Rhubarb

Fish: Crab – Haddock – John Dory – Lobster – Mackerel – Monkfish – Prawns – Sea Bass – Sea Salmon – Trout – Turbot


Meat: Beef Steaks – Chicken – Ham – Lamb – Pork Pies – Pork Spare Ribs – Saltmarsh Lamb – Sausages – Venison

Fish: Crab – Pilchards – Wild Salmon


Meat: Chicken – Grouse – Ham – Heather-fed Lamb – Pies Pork – Sausages – Venison

Vegetables: Field Mushrooms – Lettuce – Marrow – Potatoes – Pumpkin – Rocket – Squashes – Sweetcorn – Watercress

Fruit: Apples – Blackberries – Damsons – Elderberries – Pears – Plums – Sloes

Fish: Brill – Dabs – Dover Sole – Flounders – Oysters – Skate


Meat: Chicken – Gammon – Goose – Partridge – Pheasant – Sausages – Turkey – Venison – Wild Duck

Vegetables: Bay Leaves – Brussels – Sprouts – Cabbage – Carrots – Cauliflower – Celeriac – Curly Kale – Fennel – Leeks – Parsnips – Potatoes – Red Cabbage – Swede – Turnips

Fruit: Apples – Pears – Quince

Fish: Grey Mullet – Mussels – Scallops

Henri Le Worm seasonality chart

Eat the Seasons gives a wealth of advice on seasonal eating.

Visit Marine Stewardship Council for information on sustainable fish.

Available from late fall through the winter, cabbage is a perfect and inexpensive choice for cold-weather meals. A member of the Cruciferae family (along with kale, broccoli, collards, and brussels sprouts), cabbage is round in shape with layers of overlapping leaves, varies in color by variety. Although there are over 400 cabbage varieties available, the three most familiar to us are the green, red, and Savoy. Green cabbage is the most popular variety and is characterized by a pale to dark green color and smooth leaves. Containing more than twice as much Vitamin C as green cabbage, red cabbage also has smooth textured leaves that are either crimson or purple with white veins running through. Savoy cabbage has a milder flavor and softer texture, with ruffled and deeply ridged leaves making it a perfect choice for salads

Plenty of cabbage recipes, tips, and ideas after the jump.

When selecting cabbage, look for firm heads with shiny, crisp, colorful leaves that are free of cracks, bruises, and blemishes. Usually outer leaf damage is an indication that the inner leaves will be damaged, too. Avoid buying pre-cut cabbage (even halved) because once the cabbage is cut it begins to lose valuable nutrient content, especially Vitamin C. Keeping cabbage in an airtight plastic bag in the crisper section of your refrigerator, and it can remain fresh for up to two weeks. If you need to store a half-head or wedge of cabbage, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to be used within a couple of days.

When you are ready to use the cabbage, remove the thick outer leaves and cut the cabbage into pieces, then wash very well under running water. When cutting cabbage use a stainless steel knife because the phytonutrients can react with steel making the leaves turn black.


  • Creamy Cabbage and Potatoes
  • Bacon Braised Cabbage
  • Pork Soffrito with Spicy Peppers and Cabbage
  • Coconut Cabbage with Chiles and Green Peas
  • Red Cabbage With Apples and Honey
  • Stuffed Savoy Cabbage
  • Red Cabbage Salad with Braeburn Apples and Spiced Pecans
  • Homemade Kimchee
  • Cabbage Apple Casserole

What are your favorite cabbage recipes?

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Cabbage Harvest Time – Information On Harvesting Cabbage

Learning how to harvest cabbage correctly provides a versatile vegetable that can be cooked or used raw, offering nutritional benefits. Knowing when to harvest cabbage allows one to get the most nutritional culinary experience from the vegetable.

Harvesting cabbage at the right time results in the best flavor as well. If done at the proper time, you are better able to take advantage of the nutritional benefits cabbage plants provide, like Vitamins A, C, K, B6, and dietary fiber.

When to Harvest Cabbage

The right time for cabbage harvesting will depend on the variety of cabbage planted and when the heads mature. Mature heads that are ready to pick

need not be of a certain size to pick cabbage. Solid heads indicate when it is time for harvesting cabbage.

When heads are firm all the way through when squeezed, the cabbage is ready for harvest. Heads may be large or small when ready; the size to pick cabbage varies depending on the variety and the weather conditions the cabbage grew in.

Various varieties of cabbage come in and are ready for harvest at different times. The open pollinated Early Jersey Wakefield, for example, is ready in as early as 63 days, but most hybrid types reach harvest time from 71 to 88 days. This information should be available when you purchase cabbage for planting.

How to Harvest Cabbage

The most successful technique for how to harvest cabbage is cutting. Cut at the lowest point possible, leaving the loose outer leaves attached to the stalk. This will allow for a later cabbage harvest of sprouts which will grow on the stem after the cabbage head is removed.

Knowing when to pick cabbage is particularly important if rain is expected. Mature heads may be split by excessive rainfall or over watering, making them inedible. Harvesting cabbage should happen before the rainfall has a chance to damage the cabbage heads.

Illinois Vegetable Garden Guide

Cabbage, a fairly hardy crop, is easy to raise and can be grown from spring to fall. Early plantings should be started from plants but cabbage for later harvests may be started by sowing the seed directly in the garden. The plants can be thinned to 9 to 18 inches depending on the size of head desired. The closer the spacing, the smaller the heads. Water may be needed during dry periods to produce satisfactory heads.

Shallow cultivation of this crop is important since many of the cabbage roots are near the soil surface. A side dressing of nitrogen fertilizer when plants are half-grown is advisable.

Cabbage is available in many varieties and hybrids. The varieties differ mainly in head size and days to maturity, ranging from 50 to over 100 days. Plant several varieties of different maturities to lengthen your harvest. Always select varieties resistant to yellows disease.

Important diseases of cabbage and related crops are yellows, clubroot, blackleg, and black rot. Rotation of crops in the cabbage family is an important disease-control measure. Insects that are common on these crops are imported cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, aphids, and cutworms.

Harvest cabbage heads when they are firm and before they split. Certain varieties, such as Bonanza, will hold longer than others. The Baldhead or Danish types make good heads for storage. Store cabbage in a pit, trench, or outdoor cellar.

Crop Amount for 100
ft of row
Variety recommended for use in Illinois Days to harvest Resistant to
Cabbage 75-100 plants Early Jersey Wakefield 63
Green Cup 73
King Cole 78 Yellows
Savoy Ace 74
Savoy King 85 Yellows
Ruby Ball 70 Yellows
Ruby Perfection 80 Yellows
Vegetable Hardiness Recommended planting period for central Illinois (b) Time to grow from seed to field (c)
For overall
Cabbage Half-hardy April 10-July 15 June 10 4-6
Vegetable Spacing in row
Seed to sow per foot Distance between plants when thinned or transplanted Distance between rows Planting depth
inches inches inches
Cabbage ….. 9-18 18-30 (d)

Grow and Save Cabbage Seeds

How to Grow Cabbage

Cabbage varieties come in a spectrum of colors, from light green to dark purple. The scientific name of cabbage is Brassica oleracea, a species that also includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts.

Time of Planting

Sow cabbage seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before transplanting seedlings outdoors. Transplant cabbage seedlings outdoors just before the last frost.

Spacing Requirements

Sow seeds ¼ inch deep. Space cabbages at least 24-36 inches apart in even spacing or 12-14 inches apart in rows spaced 36-44 inches apart.

Time to Germination

7-12 days

Special Considerations

When growing for seed, increase spacing to 18-24 inches apart in rows that are at least 36 inches apart. Staking is recommended.

Common Pests and Diseases

Cabbage can suffer from a number of pests and diseases including flea beetles, cabbage moths, aphids, leaf miner bugs, slugs, and black rot. Early season insect pests, such as flea beetles, can be deterred by growing transplants underneath row cover.

When and How to Harvest

Cut the head at the base of the plant with a harvesting knife or pruning shears as soon as the cabbage head feels solid. Trim off the loose outer leaves and store heads in a cool place.


Raw cabbage can be used in fresh salads like coleslaw. It can also be enjoyed roasted, braised, stewed, and stir fried. Cabbage is often fermented to make sauerkraut and kimchi.


Cabbage will keep for about four months at a temperature between 32-40 degrees F and a relative humidity of 80-90%.

How to Save Cabbage Seeds

Life Cycle


Recommended Isolation Distance

Separate varieties by 800 feet – ½ mile.

Recommended Population Sizes

To ensure viable seeds, save seeds from at least 5 plants. When maintaining a variety over many generations, save seeds from 20-50 plants. If you’re saving seeds for genetic preservation of a rare variety, save seeds from 80 plants.


To save seeds from cabbage, first decide how you will vernalize your plants. Vernalization can happen in the field or in storage. Overwinter cabbage in the field if you will have 10-12 weeks of cool weather (around 50 degrees F) without regular temperatures below 35 degrees F.

When plants cannot be successfully overwintered in the field, they can be vernalized in storage.

Before the first frost, dig up the entire plant, roots and all. Trim off outer leaves but keep the cabbage head intact. Replant these trimmed plants into containers filled with slightly moist potting mix or sand. Then, find a place to store your plants. The optimum storage conditions for cabbage vernalization ranges from 34-39 degrees F and 80-95% relative humidity. A traditional root cellar is ideal but garages, sheds, and other unheated structures work well in some climates. In the spring, when the soil can be worked, replant cabbage in your garden. Space plants at least 36 inches apart. Staking the plants is recommended.

Assessing Seed Maturity

After flowering in their second year of growth, mature seed pods become dry and turn brown as the seeds inside also mature and brown. As with many of the brassica crops, the window of time for an optimal harvest may be short as mature pods will begin to shatter and bird predation can become a problem.

Seeds can be gathered by cutting entire branches or by harvesting whole plants. Because of this species’ tendency to shatter, the harvested material should be placed on drop cloths or in containers to prevent seed loss.

Cleaning and Processing

Branches of mature fruits can be threshed by rubbing the pods between one’s hands or by flailing the brittle pods against any surface that will cause fruits to break open. If the pods are dry, they will release their seeds easily when threshed.

Storage and Viability

Store cabbage seeds in a cool, dark, and dry place in an airtight container to keep out moisture and humidity. Properly stored cabbage seeds will remain viable for several years.

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Cabbage seedling

Cabbage seed starting requires the prospect of cool days and nights.

Cabbage is a cool-season crop best planted in early spring or mid- to late summer. Cabbage thrives in temperatures between 65°F and 75°F (18-24°C) and can withstand cold temperatures down to 25°F (-4°C).

To grow cabbage where summers are warm, sow the seed of a fast-maturing variety in early spring. Where summers are cool, sow seed in mid- to late spring for a fall and early winter harvest. Where summers are very warm or hot, sow seed in midsummer for a late fall and winter harvest.

There are many varieties of cabbage to choose from—savoy, looseleaf, ballhead, red, green, purple, or white. Some varieties mature quickly, others take longer. Some are suited for warm regions, others can withstand freezing winters.

Cabbage matures in 65 to 100 days depending on the variety.

More tips at How to Grow Cabbage.

Cabbage Sowing and Planting Tips

  • Start cabbage from seed or transplants.
  • Seed is viable for 4 years.
  • Start seeds indoors 6 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring or 12 to 10 weeks before the first frost in autumn for a fall or winter crop.
  • Start seeds in individual pots or flats.
  • Sow seed ¼ to ½ (6-8 mm) inch deep in the seed-starting mix.
  • Keep the mix moist but not wet.
  • Seeds should germinate in 5 to 8 days at an optimal temperature of 77°F (25°C) or thereabouts.
  • Transplant seedlings into the garden when they 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) tall with 2- to 4-leaves and after daytime temperatures reach 50°F (10°C); firm transplants into the soil by hand.
  • Cabbage prefers a soil pH range of 6.0 to 7.5; a pH of 7.2 to 7.5 is best if clubroot disease has been a problem in the past.
  • When transplanting out seedlings set them deeper than they grew in pots or flats.
  • Grow cabbage in full sun for best yield—tolerates partial shade.
  • Add 3- to 4- inches (7-10 cm) of compost and well-aged manure into planting bed, before transplanting; cabbage needs friable, moisture-holding soil.
  • Avoid planting where cabbage family crops have grown recently.
  • Space plants 12 to 24 inches (30-60 cm) apart.
  • Space rows 24-42 inches (60-106 cm) apart.
  • Protect the seedlings from the cold for 2 to 3 weeks after planting covering them with a cloche or plastic tunnel or cold frame.
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion at half strength.
  • Common pest enemies are aphids, cabbage worms and loopers, cabbage worms, and cutworms.

Interplanting: Interplant cabbage with beets, green onions, spinach, and herbs.

Container Growing: Choose a container with a minimum depth of 20 inches (51 cm).

Cabbage Planting Calendar

  • 10-8 weeks before the last frost in spring start seed indoors for transplanting later.
  • 6-4 weeks before the last frost in spring: set out transplants in the garden or direct-sow seed in a plastic tunnel or cold frame.
  • 4-3 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct-sow in the garden when the minimum soil temperature is 45°

For Fall and Winter Harvest:

  • 14-12 weeks before the first frost in fall: direct-sow in the garden for fall and winter harvest.
  • 12-10 weeks before the first frost in fall: transplant seedlings into the garden for fall harvest.

Start cabbage seeds indoors 6 to 4 weeks before the last frost or 12 to 10 weeks before the first frost in autumn for a fall or winter crop.

Recommended Cabbage Varieties

  • ‘Dynamo’ disease and split resistant, early season.
  • ‘Fargo’ green, early maturing.
  • ‘Primax’ open-pollinated, split resistant, early season.
  • ‘Red Express’ early maturing.
  • ‘Gonzales’ dwarf, green.
  • ‘Tendersweet’ midseason, green, disease and split resistant.
  • ‘Regal Red’ midseason.
  • ‘Drumhead’ savoy, curled leaf.
  • ‘Red Perfection’ long growing season.
  • ‘Storage No. 4’ weather stress performer, stores well.
  • ‘Savoy King’ split resistant All-America winter.

Botanical Name: Brassica oleracea var. capitata

Cabbage is a member of the Brassicacea (Cruciferae) or cabbage family.

More tips at Cabbage Planting.

Growing Cabbage in the Garden

If you’re using a cold frame, open it when the temperature inside exceeds 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and close it at sundown. Keep the soil moderately moist, and don’t fertilize in the germinating or hardening-off stages; your young cabbages might produce tall, skinny stems and may flower rather than form heads.

Once the plants are well hardened, they can be set out in the garden, even though nighttime temperatures drop below freezing for several days. Stagger your plantings at regular intervals in order to harvest throughout the summer.

With midseason or late types, seeds can be sown in outdoor flats instead of under glass or lights. Otherwise, the growing procedure is the same. Midseason varieties can be sown after the last frost. Late types should be started around the first to the middle of July to be transplanted to the garden by the first or middle of August (no later than August 1 in the North).

How to Plan Your Cabbage Patch

Pick a sunny, well-drained location for your cabbage patch. Early varieties do best in a sandy loam, while later types like a heavier soil that will retain moisture. Since this vegetable is a heavy feeder, plow under 3 inches or more of well-rotted manure or compost at least two weeks before you set out the young plants. Add green sand for potassium, and phosphate rock for phosphorus. Cabbage also dislikes acid soil, preferring a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. Even with ideal pH, raking a heavy dusting of ground limestone into the plowed earth is a good idea, particularly when club root is a potential problem.

Ample moisture is even more important than perfect soil, so mulch your plants well to retain water and to keep down weeds. (To avoid hoe damage to the vegetable’s shallow roots, hand-pull any competition that appears.) Overhead watering during periods of high humidity or cool weather can cause diseases if the dense leaves don’t get a chance to dry out, and soggy mulch adjacent to the plants may cause the heads to split.

Cabbage can be planted between, or in, rows of early lettuce and radishes, since these crops will be harvested before the cabbage needs the space they occupy. You can follow a cabbage crop with beets, beans, or late corn, while late cabbage can be planted in the same rows from which you’ve harvested peas or carrots.

Since pinching the stem of a baby cabbage can cause permanent damage, handle the transplants gently. Set them out in 1/2 inch- to 1 inch-deep holes that are wide enough to accommodate a fully spread rootball, then apply enough water to insure contact between the rootlets and the soil. Space the seedlings 6 inches to 12 inches apart in rows 12 inches to 25 inches apart. (The wider the spacing, the larger the cabbages can grow, but younger, smaller ones are tastier. If you use 6 inch spacing, you can harvest every other one before maturity. A 100 foot row of 70 early cabbage plants will yield about 100 pounds; 60 late types in the same space, about 175 pounds.) Firm the soil well around the seedlings, and side-dress them with well-rotted manure three weeks after transplanting. If the leaves start to yellow, your plants probably need a midseason nitrogen boost. Otherwise, cut back on watering and fertilizing as the plants mature, to prevent the heads from splitting.

Garden Pests: What to Watch For

Cabbage, like all members of the cole family, has some traditional enemies, including caterpillars, cutworms, flea beetles, aphids, harlequin bugs, black rot, root knot, yellows, club root, and blackleg. However, these pests and diseases will seldom cause you to lose a healthy, well-weeded crop. Your best lines of defense are to provide good growing conditions, rotate cole crops to different areas of the garden, and use disease-resistant varieties.


Cabbage maggots (white, legless, and 1/3 inch long) are the offspring of cabbage-root flies. They attack the stems, causing the plants to wilt in hot weather. Gently pull the dirt away from such plants, and if you see an infestation, put a heaping tablespoon of wood ashes around each stem, firm up the soil, and water well. Maggots can also be controlled by the prompt removal of the eggs, which look like small grains of white rice. If a plant dies, pull it up and burn it: You certainly want to keep the problem from spreading.

Cabbage butterflies have white or yellow wings marked with three or four black spots and tipped with gray. They lay eggs at the base of cabbage plants, and a week later, caterpillars hatch out to eat big, ragged holes in the foliage, leaving behind bits of green excrement. Inspect the plants and pick off both the eggs and caterpillars, or, later in the season, they will bore into the young cabbage heads. You can discourage the butterflies by surrounding your cabbage bed with tomatoes, garlic, onions, tansy, sage, rosemary, nasturtiums, catnip, or hyssop. Caterpillars can also be killed with a dusting of salt and flour, which causes them to bloat and die. Some gardeners say sour milk spooned into the cabbage heads is sufficient to get rid of worms, while others use a spray of ground mint, onion, garlic, and hot peppers in a little soap and water.

If you’re invaded by cabbage loopers (a pale green worm) or harlequin bugs (a southern pest), biological controls include importing a supply of trichogramma wasps, which are parasites, and spraying the crop with Bacillus thuringiensis, a powdered bacterium. Handpicking is slower, but also effective.

Small holes in the leaves are probably caused by flea beetles, which can be discouraged by watering well each evening. Whiteflies and aphids cause unsightly trails of droppings on the leaves, but cabbage can usually survive such pests. If the attack is noticed early, spraying the insects with soapy water should keep them under control.

How to Harvest and Store Homegrown Cabbage

When cabbage heads become firm to the touch, you can start to harvest them. Splitting, if not caused by irregular watering, 1986 means the heads are past their prime. If you want to hold a mature cabbage in the ground a little longer, a slight twist of the head will break some of the feeder roots and keep the plant from bolting or splitting.

To harvest, cut the heads off the root system with a sharp knife. Discard the inferior outer leaves and inspect for insects. If you leave the stalks and roots in place, they’ll produce tasty little sprouts that can be eaten like Brussels sprouts or, when left alone, will develop into a second crop of small heads.

Cabbage tastes best when eaten soon after harvesting, but late-season varieties, in particular, will keep well in a moist, cool (32 degrees to 40 degrees Fahrenheit) location for five to six months. Late cabbages can be left in the ground all winter in mild climates, or they can be pulled up by the roots, heeled-in upside down in a well-drained trench, and covered with a foot of leaves or hay. Another storage method is to wrap the individual heads in waxed paper and place them in the coolest part of an attic or basement. You can salvage split heads by quickly turning them into sauerkraut.

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