Taiwanese cabbage is a relative newcomer to the Brassica party, offering a slightly different flavor and a tasty crunch.
Finding it in stores can be tricky, so if you want to give it a go without flying to Taiwan, it’s a fairly easy vegetable to grow at home.
This guide will arm you with all the tips and tricks you need to grow a flawless Taiwanese cabbage crop and add a new dimension to your favorite dishes.
What Is Taiwanese Cabbage?
Taiwanese cabbage is a cabbage cultivar developed in Taiwan. This relatively new variety of Asian cabbage produces an unusually squat, flat head, between 8 and 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) in diameter and weighing around 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg). The leaves are green, sometimes purple, with a juicy, crunchy texture and a mild sweetness.
Unlike most types of Asian cabbage, which are varieties of the Brassica rapa plant, the Taiwan cabbage is a variety of Brassica oleracea. This means it’s closely related to the classic round cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Savoy cabbage, rather than Chinese varieties such as bok choy and Napa cabbage.
It’s best to note that a non-heading variety of Taiwan cabbage does exist, and it’s usually sold under the same name as the heading type. To make sure you’re getting the right one, look for Taiwanese flat cabbage when buying your seeds.
How To Grow Taiwanese Cabbage
Growing Taiwanese cabbage in your garden can be very easy and immensely rewarding. Let’s start with the basics of cultivating this vegetable.
– When to Plant Taiwanese Cabbage
Taiwanese cabbage can tolerate a wide range of climates but will struggle to grow in hot and dry conditions. If you live in an area with very hot summers, it’s best to grow it as a cold season crop. In fact, cooler temperatures will help this cabbage to form heads well.
With the right growing conditions, the flat cabbage head can end up weighing up to 6 lbs (2.5 kg).
As a rule of thumb, avoid exposing Taiwanese cabbage to hot temperatures while the head is developing. For best results, start by germinating the seeds indoors, then transplant the young plants to the garden two weeks after the last frost has passed.
Taiwanese cabbage can also be grown as an overwintering vegetable if you live in an area with mild winters. In this case, you can sow the seeds outdoors in late summer, then simply let them grow in your garden until it’s ready to harvest. Like all cabbages, it has good tolerance to frost and can be kept in your vegetable bed in temperatures as low as 19 F (-7 C).
– Germinating Taiwanese Cabbage Seeds
Taiwanese cabbage seeds are very easy to germinate indoors. The seeds are small, and they do not need to be soaked in advance. Start by filling a compostable seed pot with a mixture of compost and garden soil, and place one seed in each pot. Keep the soil moist but not soaked, and place them in a room where they get plenty of direct light.
On average, Taiwanese cabbage seeds take 7-10 days to germinate. Make sure to provide the seedlings with plenty of light and water, and keep them in a room where the temperature is between 70 F and 77 F (21 C to 25 C). Once each plant has at least two sets of well-developed leaves, you can start preparing for transplanting it outside.
Growing Taiwanese Cabbage Outdoors
Taiwanese cabbage can be grown outdoors when the soil temperature is at least 50 F (10 C). Ideally, you should wait a couple of weeks after the last frost before either sowing the seeds in the garden soil or transplanting the seedlings.
Pick a part of your garden that gets full sun exposure. Although Taiwanese cabbage is a cool-season crop, it needs a lot of light for healthy growth. Make sure to plant it in a spot where it receives at least 6 hours of light each day.
Taiwanese cabbage grows best in soils that are very rich in organic matter. Dig up and turn the soil to a depth of 6 inches (15 cm), and incorporate plenty of compost and manure. The ideal pH range should be between 6.5 and 7.5. If the soil is too acidic, you can add some lime to increase its pH levels.
– Transplanting and Spacing
The Taiwan cabbage needs a lot of space to grow a well-developed head. Plant the seeds or the seedlings about 12 inches (30 cm) apart. If you are transplanting seedlings, you can simply dig a small hole that fits the size of the compostable propagation tray. This way, you don’t need to worry about disturbing the plant’s small roots.
Give your Taiwanese cabbage lots of water during the growing season. This vegetable does not tolerate drought, and any dry spells paired with poor irrigation will cause the cabbage head to split. Not only that, but too little water during hot periods will also cause it to bolt.
One of the most common problems for Taiwanese cabbage is splitting, which is the direct result of incorrect watering. The head of the cabbage can split if there are fluctuations in your watering schedule or if the plant suddenly gets a lot of water after long periods of drought. To prevent this, make sure that your cabbage is watered thoroughly and regularly.
Depending on the climate, you may need to water your Taiwanese cabbage 2-3 times a week. Water the cabbage early in the morning, and add mulch to the base of the plant to help keep the moisture in the soil.
Taiwanese cabbage doesn’t typically need fertilizer applications. If the soil has been prepared in advance with plenty of compost or manure, you can skip giving it any additional nutrients.
However, if your garden has poor soils, you can apply a nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer once a month. Avoid using fertilizers late in the season, as this can cause the cabbage head to split.
While your Taiwanese cabbage is growing, make sure that you provide it with plenty of water and nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Keep the vegetable bed tidy and free of weeds, as this plant won’t tolerate any competition for nutrients.
If you aim to have an organic garden, we recommend pulling the weeds out by hand rather than using harmful chemicals and herbicides.
When to Harvest Taiwanese Cabbage
Taiwanese cabbage usually takes 60-75 days after germination to reach maturity. It is ready to be harvested when the cabbage head is around 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter, feels firm to the touch, and has an interior made of densely packed leaves.
How to Harvest Taiwanese Cabbage
To harvest your Taiwanese cabbage, use a fork to dig out the plant. Always make sure that the entire root is removed from the soil to avoid harboring diseases such as clubroot. Use a knife to remove the roots from the base of the plant, then peel the loose leaves from the outer layer to expose the dense, compact head.
Unlike other cabbage varieties, avoid leaving your Taiwanese cabbage in the soil for too long. If it’s allowed to become too ripe, the cabbage head can split down the middle and invite pathogens that can cause rot.
Also, it’s good to note that cabbages sown later in the year will store longer, while those planted in spring are best enjoyed as soon as possible.
You can store Taiwanese cabbage in the vegetable drawer of your fridge for up to two weeks. Simply remove the outer leaves, and cover them in plastic wrap. Avoid washing the cabbage before storage, as any water trapped between the leaves will cause them to grow soft and develop mold.
– Cooking With Taiwanese Cabbage
Taiwanese cabbage can be enjoyed both fresh or cooked. You can use it the same way as the classic round-headed cabbage, in slaws, salads, stir-fries, boiled or sauteed. Or, for a touch of authenticity, you can use it to make Taiwanese kimchi, which is less spicy than the Korean version.
Common Pests and Problems
The most common problem for Taiwanese cabbage is clubroot. This disease is caused by a fungal infection that affects all plants in the Brassicaceae family. Common symptoms include yellowing, wilting, stunted growth, and root galls that look like small clubs or spindles.
Unfortunately, getting rid of clubroot is very difficult. This pathogen can survive in the soil for up to 20 years and easily be transmitted from one field to another. As a result, prevention is the best cure.
The easiest way to keep clubroot in check is to rotate your crops and wait at least four years before growing any plants from the cabbage family on the same plot of land. Keeping the soil pH above 7.0 with agricultural lime will also reduce the risk of clubroot infestations.
If you find any plants that have clubroot, remove them from the soil and burn them rather than add them to your compost heap.
– Cabbage Root Fly
The larvae of the cabbage root fly can deal serious damage to your Taiwanese cabbage crop. They start from eggs laid close to the base of the plant, then slowly work their way up through the stem. Once inside, they can be difficult to get rid of and will devour the plant from inside out.
There are no effective insecticides for this pest. The best way to control a cabbage root fly infestation is to place row covers over the plants. This way, the mature flies won’t get a chance to lay eggs on the soil, and your Taiwanese cabbage will be spared the attack.
Delicious and nutritious, Taiwanese cabbage can add a twist to all classic cabbage dishes in your repertoire. Growing it at home is pretty easy. Just be sure to remember the basics.
- Taiwanese cabbage is a variety of Asian cabbage that produces a flat, oblong head.
- It is a cold-season crop that needs plenty of water and nutrients to grow.
- On average, Taiwan cabbage takes between 60 and 75 days to harvest.
- The most common problem for this vegetable is clubroot, which can be prevented by practicing crop rotation.
So, put something a little unusual on your plate and in your garden, and try growing Taiwanese cabbage.
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