A second crop from a cabbage stalk. How can you do this?
This is an old gardening trick which works best on spring and early summer cabbages. But it can be used on any of the edible Brassica family. Nurserymen have long realised that there is value in the stem after the cabbage has been cut for market. The same goes for Broccoli as well. If you are in no hurry for the piece of land that the cabbage grew on, then leave the stems to sprout small cabbages again, or longer leafy tops that are all sold at the greengrocer's as 'cabbage tops'.
When you cut the cabbage head, leave the stalk in the ground, and cut a shallow cross about 6 mm (¼ in) deep on the top of the stalk.
Feed the soil with liquid manure and keep it moist. Several buds - new cabbage tops - will appear below the cross and develop into cabbage heads by late summer. You can get as many as six new cabbage heads - or cabbage tops - on the old stalk. They taste as good as any cabbage, and are normally more succulent, owing to their quick growing season.
Some people look down on the use of cabbage tops, and they have got a little bit of a reputation as being the poor person's cabbage - even though sometimes, they are sold at a higher price than cabbage. This is simply market forces, for those who have tried cabbage tops, are normally prepared to pay that little extra for greens with absolutely no wastage!
It is possible to get further cabbages by way of sprouting tops that equal the weight of the cut off cabbage! Many will argue that the cabbage Tops taste even better than the original!
If they were classified as 'sprouting cabbage' the cabbage tops would be better received.
The earlier maturing cabbage varieties are the more prolific providers of this 'second' crop, but the mid seasons can also be left, to give the nourishing tender cabbage leaves well into the winter. This is simply because of the basic reason that the earlier cabbage crops - once cut and harvested - would have more time left to grow a second set of sprouting cabbages from the top of the cut off stem!
Some crafty or 'economic' gardeners, use the cabbage top system in order to provide the winter cabbage - rather than planting the winter cabbage varieties. The main way to achieve this is as above, concentrate on the earlier harvesting varieties. The new sprouted cabbage tops can be left on the plant until needed.
Cabbage tops are perfectly edible and taste just the same - if not better - than the original cabbage! 'Two for one' as they say, or in the case of Cabbage tops - 'Six for one! Experiment with any of the cabbage family - broccoli included.
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