How and When to Harvest Cabbage for the Best Flavor

Harvest cabbage from your garden at the right time with these tips.

Knowing how and when to harvest cabbage from your garden will allow you to enjoy the best flavor and freshness this versatile vegetable can offer. There are several different types of cabbage, and they each mature during specific seasons. Here's when to harvest cabbage based on the type you're growing, plus find out the two best techniques for harvesting cabbage.

Types of Cabbage

Generally, cabbages are categorized according to when they are harvested. There are spring, summer, and winter varieties of cabbage, which refers to the time of the year that you harvest the crop, not when they are planted.

  • Spring cabbage varieties are planted in mid to late summer and harvested in early to late spring the following year. Spring varieties include ‘Duncan’, ‘Pixie’, and ‘Spring’s Hero’.
  • Summer cabbage varieties are planted in early to late spring and harvested in late summer to late fall. Summer varieties include ‘Derby Day’, ‘Minicole, and ‘Stonehead’.
  • Winter cabbage varieties are planted in mid to late spring and harvested in late fall to late winter. Winter varieties include ‘Celtic’, ‘January King’, and ‘Protovoy’. 
green cabbage
Jay Wilde

Also there are different types of cabbage such as red, purple, white, napa, savoy, pointed, cannonball, and Danish. When selecting which variety to plant, think ahead to what types of cabbage recipes you want to make.

Cabbage is part of the brassica family which also includes cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi. This family has certain features in common: They are generally slow-growing, take a large amount of space to grow in the garden, and most are prone to the same pests and diseases such as clubroot, cabbage root fly, and cabbage loopers.

When to Harvest Cabbage

The best time to harvest cabbage depends on the variety you're growing and could occur in the spring, summer or fall. Cabbage is a cool season crop and can successfully be grown when temperatures are between 40 to 75°F, but the optimal temperature is 60 to 65°F. There are several fast growing varieties that mature and can be harvested within 50 to 60 days. Fast growing cabbage varieties include:

purple cabbage plant

Kindra Clineff

‘Parcel’ can be harvested 50 days after planting. This is a compact variety that is a good choice for gardeners who have space that is limited because it can be planted closer together.

‘Gonzales’ matures in 55 days. You'll get a mini cabbage that is 4-6 inches and the size of a softball. It is crisp, delicious, and blue-green in color.

‘Savoy Express’ is a mini savoy cabbage that is ready to be harvested around 55 days. It's a good choice for those gardening in short-season northern climates. It also works well in small gardens with limited growing space.

‘Rubicon’ is a Chinese/Napa cabbage type that is harvested after 52 days from planting. It forms loose, open heads that are 11 to 12 inches tall and weigh about 5 to 6 pounds. It can be planted in spring or fall. It resists disease and bolting well. Bolting occurs when a plant starts to flower in the heat. Once a vegetable has bolted, the flavor and overall quality decline.

How to Harvest Cabbage

There are two main ways to harvest cabbage: You can pick greens while the leaves are still young and the plants have no central core (or heart) or you can harvest the entire cabbage. For the latter option, cut right through the tough stem at the base of a well-formed head with a sharp knife.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the best ways to store cabbage after harvest?

    You can store cabbage in the refrigerator, but do not wash it first. Simply put your head of cabbage in a zip top bag wrapped with a damp paper towel. You can also store whole cabbage plants with roots attached in a cellar. Hang cabbage heads from the ceiling several inches apart or wrapped in several layers of newspaper on the floor of the cellar.

  • How long will cabbage keep in the refrigator?

    It's important to not cut the leaves to help the cabbage last long. As the cabbage is used in recipes, remove only the leaves you need unless the recipe calls for the entire head of cabbage. Cabbage can last for several weeks this way in the refrigerator. As it ages, you may notice its aroma getting stronger.

  • What are some of the best ways to use cabbage?

    Cabbage tends to take on the flavors of the ingredients you pair it with. That's why cabbage is so wonderful in dishes like a quick kimchi, homemade sauerkraut, or coleslaw for a summer picnic or potluck. It also makes a complementary side dish for recipes such as the Irish-inspired dish of corned beef and cabbage or used as a vehicle to hold the fillings in keto-friendly dishes like burritos or enchiladas.

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