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Cole Crops

Growing Cool Season Cabbage, Kale and Other members of the Brassicacea Family.


The Brassica family, or cole crops, includes a lot of cool season and leafy green vegetables like mustards, broccoli,cabbage, kale, turnips and even bok choy. Many of these vegetables require a long season to mature, which means we put them out in the chill of spring and wait for the chill of fall to sweeten them for harvest. It also means more time for things to go wrong in the garden, like cabbage worms and root rot. Here are some tips for successfully growing cole crops in your vegetable garden.

1. Brussels Sprouts

Each sprout grows in a leaf axil, all along the stem.
Photo:Debbie Schiel / stock.xchng.

Brussels sprouts got a bad reputation because we used to cook the sweetness out of them. Honestly, they don't even need to be cooked at all, if you harvest them young enough. The plants are very obliging, maturing from the bottom of the stem up, so that you can harvest over several weeks.

2. Cabbage

There is something very satisfying in watching a head of cabbage plump up and flop over, telling you it's time to harvest. There's more to cabbage than cole slaw and there are plenty of different cabbages to choose from.

3. Kale

Hearty, crinkled Tuscan Kale.
Photo: © Marie Iannotti
Kale is cabbage's lesser known cousin, but it may be even more versatile than cabbage. There's a lot of variety in kale. Some are curly and bitter, other tender and mellow. They hold their texture when cooked and don't produce as much of a sulfur scent. They all benefit from some cool weather and even a touch of frost, so they're great additions to the fall garden.

4. Cabbage and Kale: Cool Season Vegetables with a Long Storage Life.

Chinese Cabbage 'Tenderheart'
Photo Courtesy of the National Garden Bureau

The National Garden Bureau chose cabbage and kale as their 2007 Plants of the Year. Here they tell us why we should grow them and recommend great varieties to try, as well as how to grow, harvest and store your own cabbage and kale.

5. Cool Season Vegetable Gardening: Fall and Winter Greens & Reds & More

Cathy Wilkinson Barash, for the National Garden Bureau, argues that there's always a little space in the garden for a fall into winter crop of vegetables.  Her reds and greens include chard, kale, and for pizzazz, broccoli raab, tatsoi, pac choi, bok choy, and more.

6. Radish

Growing French Breakfast Radishes
You may not associate radishes with cabbages or Brussels sprouts, but a quick glance at the leaves or flowers will tell you they are in the cruciferous family. There's a good deal more variety in radishes than you might think. They come in red, white, black and colors in between. They can be round or long and tapered. Plump or icicle thin. There are even radishes that aren't grown for their roots at all. Edible podded radishes, like Rat Tailed radish

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