Growing Cabbage in the Fall
By Mary Frucelli
Driving around I see everyone's gardens withered and brown. Their harvests were over, not to be seen again till next year. I knew there had to be more fall gardening to do and more vegetables that I could grow. I researched and found that cabbage is a good fall and winter crop to grow in North Carolina. I took a trip to my local garden center in October and sure enough they had cabbage seeds. The ideal planting time is mid to late October so I decided to give it a try.
I began by enriching a couple rows in my raised bed with some good compost and old straw from the straw bales I grew my tomatoes in. The soil was still in pretty good condition so it really didn't need that much. I planted the seeds as directed on the package and kept it moist. It wasn't long before seedlings emerged and were growing well. In the beginning I did notice quite a few holes in some of the early cabbage plant leaves, but I never saw what was actually eating the leaves. Those that were severely damaged I pulled out, making room for the stronger, healthier plants. Cabbage needs a lot of room to grow so the plants shouldn't be too close together.
It is now November and the plants are growing well. We haven't had many freezing nights but these plants are hardy enough to take it and keep growing. I have heard of cabbage growing in snow up North so we shall see if this is true. I am giving the plants a good watering once a week and that seems as though it is all they need. I am just waiting for the cabbage heads to emerge and start growing.
What will I do with the cabbage I grow? Cabbage is one of the most versatile vegetables you can use. It is a delicious and very healthy addition to soup, chopped raw in coleslaw or a salad, steamed with potatoes or you can stuff it with ground meat and rice and bake it with the sauce of your choice.
One of my favorite and most healthy ways to prepare cabbage is to ferment it. You can easily do this yourself and create a vegetable that will provide you with the natural fermented bacteria that is good for your digestive system. To begin, thoroughly wash and dry a jar and lid about the size of a Mason jar. Next, wash your cabbage and thinly slice it almost shredding it and place it in a bowl. Lightly sprinkle the cabbage with salt, mix it and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. The salt will help to draw the moisture out of the cabbage. Next, pack the cabbage in the jar pressing it to the bottom of the jar as hard as you can. As you pack the cabbage you should see juice coming out and the more you pack it down the more juice you will see. Pack the jar to about a couple inches from the opening and push the cabbage down so that it is submerged in the juice. Then place the lid on the jar and let the jar sit on your counter in an average 70 degree temperature for a week or two. You should see a little bubbling and the cabbage should start to look like sauerkraut. The longer you let it ferment, the stronger it will be. At any point you can put it in the refrigerator and it will keep for a few months.
I have never had a batch go bad, but if for any reason you believe your cabbage has spoiled, do not eat it. If prepared properly it will look like sauerkraut. I usually add a little to salads but you can put it in almost any dish. You only need to use a little to reap the health benefits from fermented cabbage.