In this article, you’ll discover how to grow red cabbage. If you want to grow from scraps, it’s also doable.
Cabbage is a vegetable that has dense-leaved head.
Different types of cabbages grown in different regions of the world including: green, Savoy, Brussels sprouts, Napa, Bok, Choy and Red cabbage.
The difference in these cabbages really, is due to a difference in leaf color, texture, size and presence of stalk or lack of it.
Red cabbage has earned its name from its leaves being dark red or purple.
It’s also known as purple cabbage, red or blue kraut. This trait is attributed to the pigment anthocyanins which causes the change in leaf color.
A factor determined by soil pH (Alkalinity or Acidity of the soil).
In neutral soils, red cabbage is purpler while in alkaline soils it is more greenish-yellow and reddish when grown in acidic soils.
Red cabbage is most common in Africa but can also be found in Europe, Asia and China.
What makes red cabbage stand out?
Apart from its rich purple color (which in itself is appealing to the eye), red cabbage is superior to green cabbage in terms of nutrients and maintenance.
It contains 10 times more vitamin A than green cabbage and twice the amount of iron.
It’s easier to manage as a crop and can be stored for longer after harvest.
When and where to grow red cabbage
Usually this crop is sown in February to mid-April in preparation for transplantation in April to early June and cropping August and November.
Planted during the onset of spring so as to harvest before the heat of summer to avoid wilting.
Red cabbage is a biennial crop but is usually grown annually.
Red cabbage does well in humid areas with well-drained fertile soils. The topography of the area should be flat or gently sloping to avoid displacement of seeds by water when planting.
This usually applies where production is commercial. It should be grown in the sun.
Cabbages can also be grown indoors, in containers, or home gardens.
Cabbage can be planted from seeds or scraps. Quality seeds are available in any agricultural seed company or store.
Scraps are the cabbage leftovers that are attached to the root.
When growing indoors from scraps:
- Simply place the leftover base from where the leaves emerge in a shallow container filled with water.
- Place the container at the windows or balcony for easier access to light.
- The roots and leaves should start sprouting in 3 to 4 days.
- Change the water every few days to ensure there is no drying.
- You can transplant the cabbage to your garden, container filled with soil or just let it grow in the water as long as you continue to change the water every so often.
When growing from seed either for subsistence or for commercial purposes;
- Seeds are grown indoors or in greenhouses first before being transplanted.
- Seedlings should be ready to transplant once they are 2 to 4 inches tall and have sprouted their first leaves. The seedlings should be hardened off to slow plant growth so that they can withstand hard conditions where they are to be transplanted.
- When transplanting, space the seedlings 12 to 26 inches apart to allow for growth.
- Ensure you weed, and take measures to control pests and diseases that may attack your crops, do this until they mature. Regularly water your crops as cabbages require a lot of water.
Harvesting and Storage
Red cabbage takes 70 days to mature. At this stage, it should have leaves that are deep purple in color.
Harvest by cutting the red cabbage head off and leaving the outer leaves and root in the soil.
This allows for regeneration. Only harvest during the coolest time of the day, especially in the morning.
You can harvest 3 or 4 smaller heads from this crop. You could also harvest by uprooting the whole cabbage as it has shallow fibrous roots thus easy to pull off the ground.
After harvesting, it is important to uproot the whole root system to reduce recurrence of soil borne diseases.
Heads of cabbage can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Use a polythene foil to wrap it tight so as to maintain its nutrients and crisp texture.
When storing part of a cut cabbage, store for a maximum of 2 days because of its high tendency to perish.
Methods of Preparation
Red cabbage can be cooked, roasted or eaten raw as salad.
When cooked, it usually turns dark blue in color so that should not worry you, although its red color can also be maintained if a little vinegar or lemon is added while cooking.
Common methods of cooking are stir frying and stewing in some countries.
Benefits of red cabbage
- Red cabbage contains vitamin B6, C, K, and folate minerals. These nutrients strengthen the immune system, play an important role in bone formation and protect the bones from damage.
- Reduces inflammation. The sulforaphane contained in red cabbage has anti- inflammatory properties.
- This type of cabbage contains anthocyanins antioxidants that have been linked to lowering blood pressure and lowering the risk of heart attack. The antioxidants are responsible for the purple color in the crop.
- Cabbage like most vegetables, contains fiber which improves gut function.
- Experts believe red cabbage contains compounds that help protect against certain cancers. Research has also shown that high intake of cruciferous vegetables lowers the risk of colon cancer. Red cabbage contains sulforaphane and anthocyanins that are also known to have cancer fighting properties.
Challenges of growing red cabbage
- Pest are a common occurrence in all agricultural produce. Foliage-feeding caterpillars, cabbage web worms, aphids, flea beetles and cutworms are just but a few of the common pests known to attack the crop. Cabbage worms pose the most relentless threat to cabbage but can be controlled by planting dill which attracts wasps that then prey on the worms. Other pests can be hand-picked as a biological pest control method.
- Diseases like black rot, fusarium wilt, sclerotinia rot and tip burn are common in cabbages. Most of these diseases can be controlled by keeping the seedbed dry, planting of resistant varieties and spacing the crops well,for proper aeration.
Emerging Trends in Cultivation of Red Cabbage
Hydroponic cabbage production
Hydroponics refers to a system of planting crops in a water-based nutrient filled solution without the use of soil.
It’s most commonly done in small scale and successfully done indoors or within a confined space with enough light.
It is commonly done for vegetables with shallow root systems such as the cabbage.
Research has shown that hydroponically raised cabbage responds well to nutrient manipulation of the solution to advance the level of bioactive compounds in them, the compositional quality as well as the yields.
Hydroponicssystems common for growing cabbage include: Kratky, floating raft beds, aeroponics, Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) and Deepwater culture(DWC).
These systems provide enough space and can support the weight of heads of cabbage.
Selectahydroponic system based on its suitability to you in terms of cost, available space, energy efficiency and automation of the system.
Red cabbage seedlings can be transplanted to the hydroponic system as soon as they attain a height of 4 to 6 inches.
Be sure to maintain the ideal pH level of 6.5 – 6.8 required for red cabbage to thrive.
Cabbage being a heavy feeder is most likely to consume the nutrient solution fast so always keep an eye on the water levels.
The advantages of using hydroponic system over land to grow cabbage are: saving on water use, increased rate of nutrient absorption, reduced pest and disease attacks, higher quality and quantity of produce per unit area and controlled micro climate conditions surrounding the plant.
High cost of setting up the system, dependence on electricity or power source and the need for someone to always monitor the crops are perhaps the few disadvantages of using hydroponics method to grow cabbage.
A greenhouse is an ideal place to grow cabbage because it provides a controlled environment that can provide optimum conditions for red cabbage to thrive.
Pests and diseases are easier to control.
Temperature, humidity and light intensity can be controlled in this enclosed environment as well.
Cabbage growing season can also be extended too.
Companion cropping keeps cabbages healthy and free from insect pests such as slugs, flea beetles, and aphids. There are three categories of crops that are beneficial to cabbages;
- Root vegetables such as onions and beet roots.
- Aromatic crops such as peppermint and chamomile.
- Garden edging such as yarrow and marigold.
Red cabbage can also be planted alongside beansor cucumbers because these crops do not require the same nutrients as cabbage. The leguminous crops avail nitrogen to the soil for cabbage to take up.
Plants like tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli or strawberries should not be planted along with cabbage if you hope to get a good produce.
Import and Export markets
Red cabbage is valued as a fresh market produce soldin local, national and international markets through various channels.
The highest exporters of cabbage are China, Spain, United States, Mexico and Netherlands.
The top importers are Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, United Kingdom and United States.
Red cabbage is definitely a favourite for many people around the world, not only for its nutritional benefits, but also for its unique flavour.
It’s a profitable crop that assures you of high returns as well as a subsistence that can be planted at home of any cabbage lover.
Growing red cabbage can be fun and rewarding. It’s not as difficult as you might think.
With the right environment, sunlight, and water, the plant can bloom — whether indoors in pots, or in your backyard garden.