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Chinese cabbage, a vegetable to (re)discover

Chinese cabbage harvest

Chinese cabbage is favored for its long leaves, that are both delicious and low on carbohydrates.

Key Chinese cabbage facts

NameBrassica pekinensis and Brassica chinensis
Family – Brassicaceae
Type – biennial vegetable

Exposure – full sun
Soil – cool, deep, moist and rich

Harvest – July to February depending on the variety

Also called Peking cabbage, there are 2 major families, napa cabbage and bak choy.

Sowing, planting Chinese cabbage

Sowing Chinese cabbage

Chinese cabbage is sown in summer.

  • In loose soil, sow directly in the vegetable patch from June to August.
  • Dig furrows about ½ inch (1 cm) deep running parallel at a distance of 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm) from each other.
  • Protect the seedlings with agricultural shade cloth during heat waves.
  • Most importantly, strive to always keep the soil a bit moist. Otherwise, the plant will quickly bolt.

When the first leaves appear, thin and keep the most vigorous seedlings, about one per foot.

If you purchase seedlings that are ready to plant, it is possible to plant them all summer long, even until the beginning of fall if your climate allows for it.

Caring for Chinese cabbage

Easy to care for, Chinese cabbage is mostly only vulnerable to early bolting, which would keep the head from shaping up well.

  • This plant’s roots run along in shallow ground, which basically means that the soil moisture must stay consistently high to avoid drying out the plants.
  • Water regularly but in a light drizzle to keep air moisture at a sufficient level.

Harvesting Chinese cabbage

Chinese cabbage needs more or less 2 months ½ lead time before harvest.

  • Wait for the core to reach the size of a nice plump apple before harvesting your Chinese cabbage.
  • Slice the stem at ground level with a very sharp blade.

For a winter harvest, perfectly possible in Mediterranean-like climates:

  • The cabbage must have formed their heads before the first frost spells.
  • Spread mulch like dried leaves around your Chinese cabbages to protect them from frost.

Parasites and diseases that attack Chinese cabbage

Cabbage fly

If your Chinese cabbage is slow to grow and that its leaves start wilting, they are probably under attack by the cabbage fly.

  • Tunnels exit around the root crown.
  • The solution is to set up a larvae barrier around the plants.

Other diseases and parasites

Chinese cabbage can fall victim to downy mildew. Moisture is the first cause of downy mildew spread.

Note that Chinese cabbage is also the target of aphids and the caterpillars of a ravenous leaf-eater, the large white.

For these two parasites, avoid chemical treatments at any cost, because your vegetables and soil could be contaminated.

Smart tip about Chinese cabbage

As you till, provide your cabbage with nutrients (fertilizer, manure and seaweed-based compost) to boost growth and greatly enhance your harvest!

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 2.0: F. Delventhal
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