I still can't believe this frigid weather we are having. And the snow!
We know spring is right around the corner — at least, I hope that hasn't changed. So while we wait, it's a good time to look through the seed catalogs and think about trying some thing new.
While you're looking, you might want to consider growing savoy cabbage if you haven't grown it before. Savoy is one of the prettiest cabbages in the bunch, I think. They're shaped like green cabbages, but the leaves are dark green and deeply crinkled. Their flavor is mild and earthy, and the leaves are tender even when raw. Heads are compact and tight but will have a little more give to them than green cabbage because of the wrinkled leaves.
The savoy cabbage is considered one of the best for eating but is not always readily available. It does not store well, which is why it can be a little harder to find. All the more reason to grow your own. A week is generally the longest a head of Savoy cabbage will stay fresh in the refrigerator. And if you don't like the smell of cooked cabbage, savoys do not produce the sulfur-like smell that other varieties do when cooked.
Like most cabbages, it is very high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and like other cruciferous vegetables it has been proven to have cancer-fighting properties. As an added bonus, savoy cabbage is low-calorie, high in potassium and other minerals, and vitamins A, K and C.
Savoy cabbage plants need 6-8 hours of sunlight per day and are usually ready for harvest 90-100 days after planting, depending on the variety. Usually, the larger the cabbage head, the longer it takes to mature. Cabbage thrives in temperatures of 60-70 degrees F. Established plants can tolerate nighttime temperatures that dip to freezing or even slightly below.
If temperatures remain much higher than 80 degrees for extended periods, the plants will virtually stop growing and bolt fairly quickly. That's one reason to start your savoy cabbage indoors early (mid to late February). Cabbage plants are generally not suitable for growing in containers, although if you have a large enough pot, it may be possible.
When growing cabbage, it's important to leave enough space between plants as the savoy cabbage plants can get quite large. Some varieties of green cabbage can produce heads weighing 15-20 pounds. Savoy usually does not weigh that much,but it does take up quite a bit of space. The world record green cabbage was grown in Alaska in 2009 and weighed in at 127 pounds.
Cabbage should not be grown in the same place two years in a row. It uses too many nutrients from the soil in a single growing season, so crop rotation is key. There is also less likelihood of disease with crop rotation
It's certainly possible to grow two crops of cabbage per year, one in the spring and another one in the fall. Planting cabbage is a great way to maximize space in your garden as the spring crop can be harvested early enough to plant summer vegetables in the same location. A fall crop can be planted again after the summer vegetables have finished producing. Cabbage that is allowed to mature in cool, fall weather is especially sweet.
Savoy cabbage can be eaten raw in coleslaw or made into sauerkraut. It can be steamed, boiled, sauteed and even roasted. It is a great addition to many soups too.
I hope you will try this "queen" of the cabbages.
Peter Sutter is a lifelong gardening enthusiast and a participant in the University of Missouri Extension's Callaway County Master Gardener program. Gardening questions can be sent to ccmgardener @gmail.com.