Red cabbage makes a lovely addition to your kitchen garden. Its broad, colorful leaves and crisp textures can really dress up your growing space in fall or spring – and it’s delicious, too! What’s more, this wonderful vegetable is easy to grow. And if you’re just starting your garden, or opening up a new area for planting, red cabbage is a great crop for loosening the soil because it sends strong roots deep down that help to break it up.

Young red cabbage

Red cabbage’s silvery-green leaves with deep purple veins add color and form to your fall or early spring garden.

Photo Credit: Mary Moore

Mature red cabbage

As red cabbage matures, it’ll form a head in the center of the plant.

Photo Credit: Mary Moore

Slicing cabbage

After removing the white core of the cabbage, slice the vegetable into long strips.

Photo Credit: Mary Moore

Cooking red cabbage

After your cabbage has cooked for 30 minutes, add diced apples, sliced onions and other ingredients for a flavorful dinnertime treat.

Photo Credit: Mary Moore

Gardeners living in warm climates, like in Florida or California, can plant cabbage anywhere from October to December. If you live in a cooler part of the country and would like to grow your cabbage for fall harvest, you need to consider when your area usually gets hit with its first fall frost (on average). Once you know that date, check how long your red cabbage variety of choice takes to mature, then count back that number from your average first frost date. (That’s when you should plant.)

If you’re planting for spring, start your red cabbage (Brassica oleracea (Capitata Group)) from seed 8-12 weeks before the last spring frost, and transplant the seedlings into your kitchen garden 4 weeks before the last frost of the season.

Whenever you plant, protect your transplants from cutworms by surrounding them with a cardboard barrier. It’s easy to do: Just take a cardboard roll from bathroom tissue or paper towel and cut it into 2- to 3-inch-long rings. Then dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball, but no deeper. Place the seedling into the hole, and place the roll around the seedling, with about half the ring still rising above the ground so the cutworms won’t be able to crawl past the ring and damage your plant.

Cabbage is a heavy feeder, so when you’re planting, be sure to fill the hole back in with some compost and a balanced fertilizer, along with a few inches of your good garden soil. Top that off with some light mulch around the cardboard roll and some water, and your cabbage will be on its way to growing big, crunchy and delicious!

As it matures, the vegetable will gradually grow a head in the center of the plant. (Kale, a close relative, won’t form this head.) You can harvest your cabbage when it’s small, or allow it to grow until it’s several inches wide. To harvest the head, use a sharp knife to cut underneath it and remove it from the plant. Some varieties will continue to produce small cabbage heads after you harvest.

Many people slice raw red cabbage and add it to salads or slaws, but if you’re wondering what else you can do with this gorgeously bright vegetable, try this slow-cooker recipe for a colorful, tasty and healthy addition to your dinner table:

Slow-Cooked Red Cabbage

Ingredients

  • 1 red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 apples, diced (I prefer 2 red Gala and 2 green Granny Smith, but that’s up to personal taste and availability)
  • 2 medium-size, strong, white onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon fresh or ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary

Preparation

To shred cabbage without a food processor, remove any dried up or wilted leaves on the outside of the vegetable. Then cut the cabbage into four quarters with a sharp knife. Cut the core from the cabbage, and slice the remaining veggie in long, thin slices to produce slender shreds.

Set your slow cooker on its hottest setting. Place the butter and cabbage inside and cook, covered, for 30 minutes. While that’s cooking, slice, dice and peel the rest of the ingredients.

After 30 minutes, change the setting on your slow cooker to the lowest setting. Stir in the diced apples and sliced onions. Add the 2 cloves of peeled and diced garlic. (You can also use a garlic press to peel and dice the garlic if you prefer.) Add the apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt and rosemary, then stir. Cover and cook (still on lowest setting) for 2 hours, or until tender. Makes 6-8 servings.

Not only is red cabbage a lovely ingredient for your kitchen garden, it gives all kinds of recipes a splash of color and a dash of crunch. So whether fall or spring, it’s time to plant some red cabbage – and enjoy!