How to Grow Cabbage and Calabrese
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, a host ofvarieties were launched on the commercial horticultural market, several of which are excellent in the garden. One of the very best is the F1 hybrid ‘Minicole’, a round-headed summer cabbage which can also be stored for winter. ‘Minicole’ was bred in Holland, and basically is the ‘Dutch white’ type of cabbage, ideally suited for shredding as tole slaw, but equally good cooked.
A very compact cabbage, one of the great attributes of ‘Minicole’ is its ability to stand in the ground for several months without deteriorating. Heads that mature in August can still be of prime quality in November. Its second highly commendable quality is that if cut in half, the remaining head ‘browns’ far less than most cabbage varieties — especially if kept, wrapped, in a fridge.
The earliest sowings can be made indoors in March, transplanting in May for a July harvest. This can be followed by sowing outdoors in early May, transplanting in mid-June for an August to September harvest. Also worth a try is a September sowing in which the overwinter in a cold frame for in April. This may not succeed in a bad winter, but any plants which do come through will be ready very early the following summer.
‘Minicole’ will not stand very severe frost, so if lifting for storage, lift it before it has been affected by frost.
The same breeders also produced an excellent spring and summer cabbage, ‘Hispi F1’, which won a well-deserved place in many English gardens. A solid but pointed cabbage with a crisp sweet flavour, it is one of the fastest growing varieties, crops heavily, and is very adaptable in its use.
The earliest crops are obtained by sowing in a frame or cold greenhouse in September or October, planting out early in spring. It can also be sown under glass in February for a slightly later crop, followed by outdoor sowings in spring and summer, to crop between June and September.
I have found that both ‘Minicole’ and ‘Hispi’ respond well to ‘cut-and-come-again’ treatment, giving substantial secondary heads in late summer.
Red cabbage is one of the most undervalued of vegetables. It seems almost criminal to pickle it, when it is superb cooked with apples,, vinegar and brown sugar, and wonderful in summer and winter salads. To maintain continuity I always sow twice: in spring, for the main summer crop, storing any which are surplus in autumn; and again in autumn, overwintering seedlings in a cold frame and planting out in spring to get the earliest crop of the year. Not all the seedlings survive winter, but it is always worth a try. The variety ‘Ruby Ball’, an Fl from the United States, has an enviable reputation. It was awarded the prized All America Gold Medal, matures early, is very compact with little wasted leaf, and is said to be very sweet-flavoured.
Calabrese, the green-sprouting, is one of the fastest growing brassicas, with a superb flavour, and ideal for freezing. Like , to which it is closely related, it is not the easiest vegetable to grow, disliking setbacks such as water shortage, sudden temperature changes, even transplanting. For this reason it is best sown in situ, or raised in small individual pots for planting out. Sow it between April and July, space it 15cm (6in) apart in rows 30cm (12in) apart to get the highest yields, cut the main head first, and wait a few weeks before a secondary crop of sideshoots is ready for picking.
‘Green Comet F1’ is one of the best of the ‘mainstream’ calabrese. Also recommended is ‘Romanesco’, a large-headed, superbly flavoured variety which has only recently appeared, and for which May sowings are advised.