Cabbage,Broccoli,Cauliflower...July 3rd, 2010
Sometimes called the Cole crops, this family of cold hardy vegetables also includes Kale. They readily cross pollinate, so if you want to save seeds, you MUST choose only ONE variety of ONE of these crops in the entire family. The flowers do not form to pollinate until the second year of growth. You must Winter over at least a half dozen plants from the previous year. The second year is when you have to be concerned about cross pollination. For details about saving seeds, my favorite web site is International Seed Saving Institute, in the links at the bottom of the page. Saving 'Cole Crop' seeds in not for beginners, but this is a very important crop. I see many so called 'Survival Seed' companies selling collections of seeds. Many they include will definitely cross pollinate. They advertise you can save your own seeds, but that is only true if you only grow one from each group. More than one variety of a vegetable will cross, except for beans. So will beets and swiss chard. There are four families of squash to worry about cross pollination.
So which variety from this family do I choose? The large Winter storage Late Flat Dutch. It keeps in a moist root cellar or pit just above freezing temperatures. It also can be fermented into sauerkraut, and keep in the cellar, or can the kraut for long term storage. A single large head may weigh as much as all the broccoli harvested from a ten foot row. Only Kale may be hardier, but it is just a dry leafy garnish. Winter cabbage is started in the summer here, so no green house or artificial heat or light is needed. It can be directly seeded into the garden, started in a more shady bed, or in pots if you like. Each method will require less thinning, than the one listed before it. More seeds will become plants in better controlled conditions.