Cabbage ‘Red Drumhead’ is a popular deep red heirloom variety which produces densely packed leafy heads with dark red, solid hearts in late summer through to Christmas.
This old hardy variety from the 1860s is easy to grow, stores well and is remarkably tasty and sweet.
The colourful vitamin-rich heads are delicious cooked or raw in salads and coleslaw, Red Drumhead is renowned for cooking and pickling, holding its flavour and deep purple-red colour.
Vigorous plants are easy to grow and are adaptable to heat, but for the best flavour they are best timed so the heads mature in the cool weather.
Prepare the site:
All brassica crops grow best in partial-shade, in firm, fertile, free-draining soil. Start digging over your soil as soon as you can brave the elements. Remove any stones you find and work in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost. Tread on the soil to remove air pockets and to make the surface firm. Brassicas will fail if the soil is too acidic; add lime to the soil if necessary, aiming for a pH of 6.5 to 7.5.
Sowing: Sow successionally from late Feb to early May
Nearly all brassicas should be planted in a seedbed or in modules under glass and then transferred. Seeds should be sown thinly, as this reduces the amount of future thinning necessary and potential risk from pests.
Sow seeds 12mm (½in) deep and space 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in) between rows. Once the seeds have germinated, thin the seedlings to 7.5cm (3in) between each plant. After germination, seedlings will often be ‘leggy’, so plant them as deep as possible to really anchor them into the soil.
Cabbage seedlings are ready for transplanting when they are between 6 and 8cm high (2½ to 3in). Water the day before moving, and keep well-watered until established. Plant firmly, close together for small heads and wider apart for larger cabbages, around 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) apart.
Clear away any yellow leaves. Feed the plants as they near maturity with a foliar feed.
Harvesting: From early September to the end of December.
Cabbages can be harvested for storing or eating fresh. For immediate consumption, cut head at ground level when it feels solid. When harvesting varieties suitable for storage, pick those that are firm and solid with no outer leaves that have lost their green colour, pulling up the entire plant and roots.
Winter varieties can be stored for up to 5 months before consumption. The vegetable is also fit for drying and freezing, but is particularly tasty when pickled.
Rotate your crops annually to avoid disease. Don't grow brassicas on the same plot more often than one year in three, as moving the crop helps avoid the build up of soil pests and diseases.
Mint: Effective against Cabbage White Butterflies, Aphids & Flea Beetles
Thyme: To ward off that nasty Cabbage Worm!
Also useful: Sage, Oregano, Borage, Chamomile and Nasturtium.
Cabbage is known botanically by the name Brassica oleracea variety capitata, which translates to "cabbage of the vegetable garden with a head."
The Latin name Brassica derives from the Celtic ‘bresic’. The species name oleracea refers to a vegetable garden herb that is used in cooking. Both the words capitata and cabbage come from the Latin word capittus meaning capitate which describes the head like mass or dense cluster.
The variety name is French, Tête meaning 'head' and Noire meaning 'black'.
Although the term sauerkraut, cabbage preserved in brine, comes from the German words for 'sour' and 'cabbage' the concept was actually brought to Europe from China by the Tartars. In German, the term 'kraut' means 'herb', or designates the leaves and stem of a plant as opposed to the root. The term is more often used in compound nouns for herbs, and also for cabbage and cabbage products:
The name coleslaw, a salad dish made with shredded cabbage-may have come from the Dutch whose word for cabbage is 'kool', and for salad, is 'sla'.
Captain Cook swore by the medicinal value of sauerkraut back in 1769. His ship doctor used it for compresses on soldiers who were wounded during a severe storm, saving them from gangrene.
The Dutch utilised its high content of vitamin C to prevent scurvy. Dutch sailors stored and consumed fermented cabbage on long voyages. Throughout the harsh winters from the 14th to the 19th centuries, the peasants of Russia sustained themselves on soup made from fermented cabbage it is still a staple in the Russian diet today. Early German settlers brought Sauerkraut to the United States, from this the old nickname 'kraut' for a person of German descent first appeared.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 5 grams Average Seed Count 1,100 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 220 seeds per gram Common Name Autumn / Winter Cabbage
Other Language Names Cabeza or Cabeça Negra Family Brassicaceae Genus Brassica Species olearacea Cultivar Red Drumhead Synonym Brassica olearacea Height 40cm (16in) Spread 25-30cm (10-18in) Position Full sun Soil Well-drained/light, Clay/heavy, Chalky/alkaline, Dry Time to Sow Sow successionally from late Feb to early May Time to Harvest From early September to the end of December