Fresh Cabbage / courtesy photo

Fresh cabbage can be colorful. To celebrate National Cabbage Day, below are five fun facts about this member of the cole family. / Contributed

National Cabbage Day is Saturday, Feb. 17. In celebration of that, Florida Food & Farm is serving up five fun facts about this dense, leafy — and, so often, unappreciated — veggie.

Five fun facts about cabbage

1) Cabbage is an abundant source of vitamin C — it is actually richer in vitamin C than oranges, which are usually considered the “best” source of that vital nutrient (source: www.organicfacts.net). (Editor’s note: We at Florida Food & Farm don’t predict that sales of cabbage juice will eclipse sales of orange juice anytime soon.)


2) You don’t like the smell of cabbage when it’s boiling? Here is some advice, excerpted from the Divas Can Cook website: “I usually cook cabbage once or twice a year. I don’t cook it often, because it funks up the kitchen! Ughhh. Then a friend gave me a li’l tip: ‘Don’t boil the cabbage; simmer it.’ Simmering does cut down on the smell. Cut down. Not get rid of. I can at least tolerate it now.”

Grandma’s Southern Cabbage is easy to prepare, nutritious … and tasty. / Courtesy divascancook.com

3) You get a lot of nutritional “bang for the buck” with cabbage, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods. “In terms of price per edible cup, a report by the Economic Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has shown cabbage to be the second most economical cooked vegetable. … Only potatoes came out slightly less expensive” (source: www.whfoods.com).

4) Now is a great time to grow cabbage. Says the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences: “Cabbage is a versatile plant that can be grown throughout the winter. … Cabbage is in the same plant family — cole — as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and collards. It (cabbage) can be eaten raw in cole slaw, pickled in sauerkraut or cooked into a variety of dishes. … This is a great vegetable for those who like their edible gardens to be both functional and beautiful; traditional cabbage looks quite nice as it slowly grows larger, with a few loose leaves around a growing head” (source: gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/edibles).

5) Not all cabbages are small — some are huge. Look at the photo below of the Bonnie Mega-Cabbage (aka OS Cross), which can weigh 30 to 50 pounds at maturity. Says Bonnie Plants on bonnieplants.com, “This high-quality, bolt-resistant hybrid produces exhibition-size heads … Try it in flower beds to be the talk of the neighborhood.”

Here’s the recipe for Grandma’s Southern Cabbage (courtesy divascancook.com). Watch the video at www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=jQZGpf7dQSk.

Ingredients
1 head of cabbage
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon of seasoning salt (or season to taste)
Fresh black pepper
1½ to 2 cups chicken broth (can also use water, but chicken broth makes it taste delish!)

Instructions
1) Cut cabbage into quarters, removing the hard stem. Slice each quarter into 1-inch-wide strips;
2) In a large pot, add butter, olive oil, salt, pepper and cabbage;
3) Add in chicken broth, then toss;
4) Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low;
5) Simmer 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender. Do not overcook.

The Bonnie Mega-Cabbage weighs 30 to 50 pounds at maturity. / Contributed by Bonnie Plants

GARDENING TIPS

Cabbage has a long fall-winter planting season and grows well throughout Florida, either from seed or transplant. You can start planting August through February in North Florida, September through February in Central Florida, and September through January in South Florida. Cabbage is ready for harvest in 85 to 110 days if planted by seed; 70 to 90 days if transplanted.

Recommended varieties include Rio Verde, Flat Dutch, Round Dutch, Wakefield types, Copenhagen Market, Savoy and Red Acre. Other varieties might produce well also; suggestions are based on availability, performance and pest resistance (source: UF/IFAS).

When planting, allow 9 to 16 inches for growth and a one-quarter- to one-half-inch seed depth. Cabbages love full sun (at least six hours per day). Water in the morning; this allows the sun to dry the leaves and helps to prevent disease. Be on the lookout for caterpillars; remove them by hand if found.

To have a successful garden, remember to rotate plant families. Avoid successively planting vegetables from the same family in the same area of the garden. Cabbage is in the Brassicaceae family; other family members include arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustards, radishes and turnips.

Not ready to grow your own? Cabbage can typically be found in your local farmers markets from December through May.

NUTRITION INFORMATION
Green cabbage (raw); 1 cup (chopped)

  • Calories: 22
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 5 grams
  • Total fat: 0 grams
  • Dietary fiber: 2 grams

* For a complete breakdown, visit Food-A-Pedia

BUYING & STORAGE TIPS

Cabbage heads that are heavy, with compact leaves and shiny heads, are what to look for. If you’re harvesting your own or buying from a farmers market or farm stand, make sure to leave all leaves on the head; this helps with moisture retention.

Cabbage thrives in cold, moist storage. When stored properly, it can hold up well in refrigeration for three to four weeks. Before placing in the crisper of your refrigerator, remove loose leaves, wrap the head in a damp paper towel, and place in a perforated food storage bag. You can buy perforated storage bags, or simply punch holes in your own.