CABBAGES

CABBAGES

The botanical family of the Brassicaceae comprises a large number of different species for human consumption, all very interesting. Every part of the plant is the raw material for many culinary preparations. Of cauliflower (Brassica oleracea L. var. Botrytis), broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. var. Italica), of kale (Brassica oleracea L. var. Acephala), and of turnip tops (Brassica rapa subsp. Sylvestris var. esculenta), the part that is used for food is the still unripe inflorescence. Of Savoy cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. var. Savoy L.), head cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. var. Capitata), Chinese cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. var. Chinensis), and Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea L. var. gemmifera), the edible parts are the leaves of the bud. Finally, of kholrabi (Brassica oleracea L. var. Gongylodes) the part that is used is the stem enlargement that turns into a head. The different kinds of cabbage have been used by man since ancient times; according to some, their use dates back at least 6000 years ago. Historical records, however, identify this plant in unequivocal fashion as already on the tables of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. The inhabitants of ancient Rome used cabbages as a raw food before their lavish banquets or as a remedy for various diseases. In 1500, they were listed as a laxative and a hundred years later we find them mentioned by Captain Cook as an essential food for the crews of the vessels to help withstand the long voyages without getting sick. In fact, even today cabbages possess great healthy qualities: they contain a good amount of vitamin C (especially in the leaves) and have detoxifying and soothing action in cases of ulcers. The presence of glucose substances seems to have a preventive effect against cancer. The richness in vitamin K as well as potassium, calcium, and phosphorus salts may prevent osteoporosis. The caloric content is quite low for all types of cabbage—around 20 to 25 Kcal / 100g of fresh product.

CULTIVATION

Cabbages require deep, fresh soil but can also adapt to less than ideal conditions. They have excellent resistance to cold (some varieties of cabbage or kale caps resist even at -10 ° C). Cultivation may be spring-summer or summer-winter. In order to take advantage of all nutrional elements of the cabbage, a cultivation of cabbage that produces about 3 kg per sqm requires about 30g/sqm of nitrogen, 10g of phosphorus, and 40 grams of potassium, in a ratio of 3:1:4. For the preparation of the soil, one should have a good supply of organic matter with 3-5 kg of compost, to which one should add 80g /sqm of potassium sulphate, 60 grams of superphosphate, and 30 grams of urea. Coverage requires one or two interventions with nitrogen (20g of ammonium nitrate or 40g of guano). The inputs of nitrate are also useful in cases of long periods of rain which may flood the soil, making it lifeless. The growing cycle is quite long, ranging from 90 to 150 days and beyond. The periods of cultivation are different depending on the species and variety. Each species has early cultivation with transplant in May and harvest in late summer while late varieties are transplanted in June and harvested in winter. The distances of transplantation must take into account the substantial growth of the plants. Generally, we recommend a distance of 70 cm between rows and 50 on the row with about 2 to 4 plants per square meter.

ADVERSITIES

Cabbages are attacked by different types of insects. At the time of transplantation, slugs and click beetles undermine the seedlings. A special poison bait can be used against these parasites. At the moment in which the plant has developed, it is frequently attacked by lepidopteran pests such as cabbage butterfly, or noctua, whose larvae gnaw the leaves. The plants should be cared for by spraying them with Bacillus turingensis, which is very effective against the larvae of these insects (but not against their eggs). A possible solution for periods that are not excessively hot is to protect the crop by placing some non-woven fabric on it that prevents the insects from settling down on them. Additional problems may result from fungi. In the first place, there are downy mildew and Alternaria, which cause spots on the leaves; a preventive fight with copper is recommended against these parasites, especially during periods in which the temperature tends to rise. The copper-based treatments also help prevent bacterial attacks.