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Diggin' It

Planning a vegetable garden this year? Consider cabbage.

Cabbage is often-overlooked gem in vegetable garden.

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Despite being on the breeders’ back burner, you can find green (aka white), blue-green, and red cabbages; smooth-leaf and savoy cabbages (which have seersuckerlike leaves); round, flattened, and pointy cabbages; and cabbages ranging from the size of soccer balls to as small as croquet balls.

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There are varieties for truncated seasons, such as ‘Parel’, and cabbages like ‘Rio Grande’ for warm climates, where seeds most often are sown in the fall. Or choose cultivars such as ‘Reaction’ have resistance to fusarium wilt, a soil-based fungi that causes leaves to wilt and die.

If you’d like to try an heirloom cabbage, an old, open-pollinated cultivar developed more than 50 years ago, check out the online catalog of Heirloom Seeds, a family-run seed company in Pennsylvania. Among its offerings are the savoy ‘Drumhead (1797) and ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’, a conical-shaped variety introduced in 1840.

Most of New England offers just the conditions cabbages like — cool summers and even moisture. Short- and midseason cultivars, which are ready to cut in fewer than 85 days, tend to have a milder flavor than late-season cabbages, which take more than 85 days to mature. Days-to-maturity with cabbages, don’t forget, are from transplanting, not from sowing seeds.

Karan Davis Cutler is one of eight garden writers blogging at Diggin' It. She's a former magazine editor and newspaper columnist, is the author of scores of garden articles and more than a dozen books, including “Burpee - The Complete Flower Gardener” and “Herb Gardening for Dummies.” She now struggles to garden in the unyieldingly dense clay of Addison County, Vt., on the shore of Lake Champlain, where she is working on a book about gardening to attract birds and other wildlife. She blogs regularly for Diggin’ It.

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