Occasionally you will see what can only be described as a super model vegetable, the sort that makes you look twice in your instagram feed or at a seed packet. Kalibos cabbage is one of those vegetables, its vibrant purple colour together with its unusual conical shape of this Belarusian bred beauty is enough to stop you in your tracks. Added to its attractiveness is that its slender size means that you you wont be eating cabbage for weeks and that it is a heritage variety, dating back at least a century and is open pollinated (breeds true from seed).
In the kitchen
Red cabbages store well in a cool place like a fridge, shed or garage for at least a couple of weeks after harvesting.
Kalibos can be shreded and lightly steamed for 5 minutes or very gently braised with some apple juice, port and a pinch of mace and a couple of cloves for a few hours until tender.
Kalibos shape is similar to a hispi cabbage and because it is a fairly loose cabbage can be cooked in a similar way to the the very trendy charred hispi cabbage. Rub oil and salt in to the cabbage and BBQ or bake for 15 minutes.
Yield and plant health
Kalibos is an autum cabbage. Sow in March – May, plant out a month after sowing, harvest 5 months after sowing. For best results sow every few weeks to keep a supply of cabbage through August to October. At a push it will last to the first frosts although it is not as frost hardy as January King or other winter cabbage.
Kalibos is more compact than many cabbage and so can be planted 30 apart for slightly smaller heads, rather than the usual 40-50 cm. Unfortunately it is susceptible to all the usual pests and diseases that cabbage get.
An organised cabbage grower with plenty of space can supply the kitchen with cabbage all year round in the UK. Varieties of cabbage can be split in to harvest time, spring, summer, autumn and winter. They can also be further subdivided by colour (purple, white or green), leaf type (savoys which are crinkled or smooth) and head type (drumhead forming produce tight balls, collard produce plentiful loose leaves which can be harvested leaf by leaf as required). Chinese cabbages like Pak Choy, Napa and Choy Sum are also varieties of cabbage, usually treated as a summer or autumn cabbage in the UK. Napa cabbage is the variety to use for kimchi. Red cabbage are traditionally grown as autumn cabbage and will store for a long time in a cool place, they are also traditionally used for picking. White drumheads are traditionally used for sauerkraut but you can also use red.
The type of cabbage seed you buy will determine what time you start sowing.
Summer cabbages are sown in February to early March, planted in their final positions in May and harvested in July – October.
Autumns cabbage are sown March – June, transplanted May-June and harvested August to November. They are usually not hardy enough to stand severe winter frosts.
Winter cabbages are sown in April to May and planted in final positions in June to July. They are the most hardy and can be harvested in November to March. Winter cabbages can last a long time when harvested if stored in a cool place like a garage or fridge.
Spring cabbages are sown in June to July and planted out in September to October and harvested March to May. Often spring cabbages may also be used as summer cabbages too.
You can start cabbages in pots in a green house or outdoors. Sow 1cm deep. In pots sow 1-3 seeds in a 3 inch pot. Outdoors sow thinly in rows 15cm apart. Thin seedlings to one every 7cm or 1 per 3 inch pot. Water lightly until it is time to plant out. Early outdoor sowings in February and march will benefit from a cold frame or fleece covering.
Once the plants have several true leaves plant out in final positions. Cabbage are not too fussy about sunlight but they do need a firm soil so you might struggle with a very sandy soil. They will appreciate a feed of blood fish and bone or another organic fertiliser in the spring and a mulch to conserve water. Commonly growers would sprinkle a little lime on the soil before planting as this helps to avoid club root but also cabbage like an alkaline soil. If you want to do this though do it sparingly and follow manufacturing guidelines. Calcified seaweed and ground chalk are preferable to organic growers. Always wear a face mask and gloves when sprinkling lime and follow manufacturing instructions.
Pot grown plants will need a period of a week being moved outdoors during the day and brought inside at night to harden off. Plant 40 – 50 cm apart, firming in strongly to stop the plants rocking in high winds. Water in well and make sure that they are well watered until established. After this water only if it has been dry for several weeks.
Brassicas can fall victim to cabbage white butterfly or birds. Grow under butterfly netting to avoid this, making sure the netting does not touch the cabbage.
There are two major issues that can affect cabbages, cub root and cabbage root fly.
Cub root is a fungal infection that affects grown. Roots will look swollen and distorted and cabbages will fail to thrive. Once on your plot you should not grow cabbage there for up to 20 years. If that is not possible then there are resistant varieties. Raising the PH of the soil with lime also helps.
Cabbage root fly burrow in to the roots of the cabbage and the cabbage slowly wilts and dies. If you pull up the plant then you will see maggots on the roots. You can buy little collars that go around the base of the cabbage which stops the fly laying her eggs on the roots.