Monday, January 29, 2007


This includes summer & winter cabbage, but not other brassicas such as sprouts, kale or calabrese.

Marks out of five: the more pink stars, the better the variety.

Spring cabbage

Advantage: grown 2007

I'm not giving these a rating just yet, as they've only just (in early autumn) gone out into their proper home having been sown in August and brought on as seedlings. They germinated well, though, and have been growing on strongly, so I have high hopes!

Durham Early: grown 2008

Summer cabbage: white

Golden Acre: grown 2006, 2007

I haven't been that impressed by this fairly ordinary white summer cabbage variety. First year I grew them was a drought year, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt, but 2007 was the summer that wasn't (i.e. it rained all the time) and still they didn't exactly light up my life.

Germination was very good, and they got off to a flying start, but then seemed to stop dead. Caterpillars made pretty lacy doily covers out of the outside leaves, but then that's my fault since I didn't pick them off often enough. Inside there were some nice hearts, but they weren't very large and didn't have a great flavour, either. I've decided not to grow these again - and besides, we don't eat much coleslaw (these are that kind of white cabbage), so one to cross off the list.

Summer cabbage: red

Marner Early Red: grown 2006

These were a pleasure to grow - strong seedlings followed by good growth. They suffered from the same problems as "Golden Acre" (see above) concerning drought conditions and poor soil, but seemed to cope far better - they certainly produced a higher percentage of good-sized hearts and bigger plants (though again not as big as I'd have liked). Caterpillars don't seem quite so taken with red cabbage, though there was some damage. Flavour was very good: excellent braised with apples and sultanas! I'd happily grow again and may increase the rating once they have better conditions.

Red Drumhead: grown 2007, 2008

These were no problem at all to grow - germination was quick and easy and the plants grew on well. Despite a nice wet summer they didn't grow to a great size though and only a few hearted up - perhaps more of a fault with the soil than with the variety? Will try again and see if they improve with some more feeding.

Winter cabbage

January King: grown 2005, 2006, 2007

This is the classic winter cabbage: tough and dark-green, with a crabby surface that's just made to see off the worst possible frost. The first year I grew this it was a great success, forming medium-sized cabbages with good hearts and only minimal caterpillar damage. I found the taste very "cabbage-y" and not that subtle - but there are times when you need a really ballsy brassica!

In 2006 it was less of a success - not many plants made it past seedling stage due to a disaster with watering which also wiped out most of my brussels crop and my entire supply of leek seedlings. Left with a mere handful of cabbages, they never quite got going, and though I did manage to enjoy the pittance I ended up with, I think the crop can best be described as a failure. 2007 was far better: they hearted up nicely, with a firm dusky purple centre that looks as good as it tastes. No problem to grow at all, despite being given a less-than-perfect spot in largely unimproved soil, though they would probably have been bigger given more nutritious circumstances. And the caterpillars get the outside leaves - but don't seem to make too many inroads into the middle, so they're great if you're (like me) of the organic persuasion.

Siberia: grown 2008

Trying a new type next year - another Savoy, but apparently even tougher (in constitution rather than taste I hope) than January King. We'll see!

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