By MELINDA MYERS
Cleanse the toxins out of your body with the help of fresh vegetables. Cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts are a few of nature’s detoxifiers.
You can add variety to your garden and diet by including green, red or Savoy cabbage. It’s fun and easy to grow in the garden or a container and can be used in a variety of healthful dishes.
There is still time to add cabbage to your garden. Cabbage grows best in cooler temperatures. Those in the northern half of the country can plant seeds directly in the garden in early July for a fall harvest. Those in hotter regions should wait another month. Simply check the number of days from seed to harvest and count backwards from the average first fall frost. That will be the time to plant. Those in the far south should plant seeds or transplants in fall or early winter for a winter harvest.
Be sure to allow enough room for the plants to grow to mature size. Space plants at least 12 inches apart in the garden and grow in a sunny to lightly shaded location.
Protect cabbage plantings from pests with floating row covers. Made of polypropylene spun material, the covers allow air, light, and water through while preventing cabbage worms from laying their eggs on the plants. This means no green worms eating holes in the leaves or ending up on your dinner plate.
Loosely cover the planting with the fabric and anchor the edges with boards, pipes, stones, or wickets. Leave enough slack for the plants to grow. The plants support the fabric, so no frames or construction is needed.
Increase your garden’s productivity by interplanting the cabbage with quick maturing radishes, beets and heat tolerant greens. You’ll harvest these short season crops at about the time the cabbage needs the space.
Harvest cabbage when the heads are firm and full size. Use a sharp knife to remove just the cabbage head, leaving the lower leaves and roots intact. Four to six new heads will arise from buds around the stem. These smaller heads can reach four or five inches in diameter.
Remove any wilted or damaged leaves before storing cabbage in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. If using only half a head of cabbage, wrap the cut end in plastic wrap.
A medium head of cabbage weighs about one and a half pounds and yields about five to six and a half cups of shredded cabbage. A few heads of cabbage can turn into lots of slaw, stuffed cabbage rolls and other tasty cabbage dishes.
Preserve some of your harvest for winter meals. Freeze cabbage by cutting it into coarse shreds, thin wedges or by separating the leaves. It can also be dehydrated and used as a base for casseroles or added to soups and stews.
Consider turning it into sauerkraut with simple fermentation. Make large batches in crocks then can or freeze when fermentation is complete. Smaller batches can be processed in mason jars and stored in the refrigerator.
No matter how you prepare it, cabbage makes a great addition to the garden and your meals.
(Melinda Myers is the author of more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and her web site is www.MelindaMyers.com.)