Cabbage reigns supreme in Mzansi – it’s a culinary staple and a legend when it comes to stews and salads. It’s a nutritional heavy hitter, boasts a satisfying crunch, and flaunts some serious health perks. It’s also not hard to grow and can withstand pests and diseases like a champ, making it a farmer’s go-to and a consumer’s reliable pick. Cabbage is a reliable veggie that keeps on giving.
There are quite a number of varieties in Mzansi, including green, red, napa, savoy, kale, and a few more. The most accessible and that thrives well in almost every region in Mzansi is red cabbage and green, says agronomist Kwanele Dlamini from Johannesburg.
How to grow the green machine
Green cabbage is a type of vegetable that grows annually in Mzansi. It thrives in organically rich soils that are consistently moist and well-drained loam soils. It is best to plant green cabbage in an area that receives full sun.
To achieve the most visually rich cabbage, cool temperatures are also necessary, Dlamini says and adds that growth is poor in regions where temperatures are consistently at or above 27°C.
This crop has its own set of challenges, such as insects, loopers, cabbage worms, and flea fights, which can have a significant influence on growth and overall productivity, says Dlamini.
Cultivating red cabbage
Red cabbage is a colourful brassica veggie that differs from green cabbage due to its vivid colour, distinct flavour, and layered texture. Its unique crimson hue is attributed to the presence of anthocyanin pigments, the same compounds that give apples their characteristic red colour, explains Dlamini.
“To ensure healthy growth, water them daily with 15mm of water, preferably in the morning, and gradually.”
Red and green cabbage require similar temperature conditions to grow successfully. They can thrive in any part of South Africa, as long as the average temperature is below 27°C, and the minimum temperature doesn’t dip below 4°C. So, no matter where you are in the country, you can grow these versatile veggies, Dlamini adds.
In the agricultural world, it’s best to avoid watering in the afternoon. Dlamini says that high water vapour rates in the afternoon can have negative effects on plant health.
Crack the health code
Mandisa Mazibuko, an agronomist based in Mafikeng, North West, says according to various studies, cabbage contains glucosinolates that can help the human body fight against cancer. The consumption of cabbage can also enhance the levels of heart-protective antioxidants and reduce the risks of diabetes.
It is known for its high nutrient content. In addition to having high quantities of vitamins C, A, K, iron, and calcium, Mazibuko says it is also a strong source of dietary fibre, which is beneficial to the digestive system.
She explains that all varieties contain various antioxidant compounds that aid in reducing stress on the cells of the human body.
Mazibuko highlights that green cabbage is commonly found and easily accessible in kasi communities, as it is readily available in nearby markets.
Additionally, when considering the current state of the country’s economy, many shop according to their household budgets. The green cabbage stands out as a more cost-effective option, as it is both affordable and larger in size, making it suitable for feeding the entire family.
“Red cabbage comes in smaller sizes compared to green, it has a peppery taste and is richer in nutrients, has more vitamin C, and cancer-fighting flavonoids. It has fewer calories which can help with weight loss,” says Mazibuko.
And the health benefits don’t stop there! When eaten raw, cabbage is a nutritional powerhouse, containing high amounts of vitamins and antioxidants that can be diminished during cooking or frying. Basically, the rawer the better when it comes to getting the most out of this leafy green veggie.
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