Growing up in a typical traditional Afrikaans home the only thing remotely “cabbage” I loved, was my Cabbage Patch Doll, Susara. Do you remember those awkward sideway sibling glances when one swallows that reeky stuff with tears streaming down one’s cheeks and looking straight into one’s mother’s watchful eyes while she mouths: “EAT”!!  Pure torture and child abuse! I honestly believed that the smelly odour of overcooked cabbage would scar me for life! Whoever had a choice? No wonder the now so versatile cabbage had such a sad and poor reputation.

Thankfully, modern times have given birth to great artisan foodies and renowned chefs who incorporated this ancient, inexpensive and versatile staple to create interesting and mouth-watering dishes. Belonging to the brassica genus which includes broccoli, cauliflower and kale, you will be surprised with the impressive nutrient count and great health benefits. So why not go all out “cabbagy”? Being so much sturdier than other leafy greens which are available in a variety of colours, shapes, and sizes, your imagination can run wild when creating your own delectable recipes. Cabbage makes for excellent cooked and uncooked dishes. So, what would the perfect cabbage companion be? Create your own champion green dish by creatively combining a variety of stir-fried cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower florets and a selection of forest mushrooms? Let your imagination run wild! 

Beef, chicken and pork always welcome the complimenting flavour that cabbage brings. Fried, lightly steamed or even oven roasted…. there is a lot of interesting “food” for thought! Ah...I almost forgot! We have a local German restaurant that I love frequenting. Have you ever tried Sauerkraut and German sausage? Yummy! (Of course, you need to add to that a nice cold one!)   The age-old traditional Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) has so many health benefits as well. It is rich in probiotics, which aids the digestive process and maintains healthy gut flora. I found quite a few online recipes to make your own. Thanks to the internet, there is a wealth of information on storing and preserving cabbage. Let your fingers do the walking, as they say!


Preferring cool and mild temperatures, cabbage is robust and quite easy to grow. Sow seeds in seed trays at least eight weeks before the last frost. The seeds will sprout within 4 to 10 days and within approximately 6 weeks you will be able to transplant the seedlings when they have at least three or four adult leaves. Although they prefer cool and mild temperatures, they still require full sun to reach their full potential.

Cabbage plants loves water! Water the base of the plant at soil level in the morning and keep the foliage dry. Don’t over-water, as this can cause root rot, especially in containers or raised beds.

All edible plants draw nutrients from the soil which may quickly deplete, therefore, adding additional nutrients, specifically formulated for vegetables, is a must. Mulching around the base of your plants will help to retain moisture and will assist in deflecting heat and light from intense sunlight.

Patrolling for pests might sound like a tedious and time-consuming exercise but is important. Check the underside of the big cabbage leaves where insect pests and worms love hiding. Hand-pick pests or dislodge them using water from a hose. For a constant invasion, use Neem Oil to eliminate them.  

Always remember to weed regularly as weeds can be home to certain bacteria and insects that consume water and nutrients from your plant.

Although cabbages flourish in cooler weather, young seedlings might be harmed in freezing temperatures. It is advisable to cover young seedlings against frost and remove the cover as temperatures rise during the day.

And finally your cabbage head is ready to harvest when,  as Ambrose Briers said :  “Cabbage, (the) familiar garden – kitchen vegetable  (is) about as large as a wise man’s head”…

About the Author

Michele Fourie is the Seeds for Africa General Manager. Michele loves growing beautiful flowers, chilli plants and is passionate about exceptional customer. service. Michele is also a fundi in the kitchen. Check out her blog post on making your own sweet pickled piquant cherry peppers at this link.