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2022 Midwest Vegetable Guide

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Cole Crops and Brassica Leafy Greens – Horticulture 102 Midwest Veg Guide 2022 Cole Crops and Brassica Leafy Greens – Horticulture Major update by Ben Phillips, Liz Maynard – Oct 2020 Reviewed by Liz Maynard – Aug 2021 Crop Description The term "cole crops" refers to leafy brassicas, with waxy leaves, of the species Brassica oleracea. Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, and kohlrabi are hardy crops and well adapted to cool weather. Mustard and turnip greens, although not cole crops, are also frost-hardy and adapted to cool weather. Careful selection of the planting date and cultivars is crucial to a good harvest in the Midwest. Many cole crop varieties need 80 days or fewer to mature and can be sequentially planted in the spring through mid-summer for sequential harvests starting in the summer through late fall. Some Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower varieties need over 100 days mature, and require a full season. Plants maturing under cool weather conditions are the highest in quality. Broccoli: There are heading-types of broccoli that form a distinct domed head, and sprouting "broccolini" types that produce smaller sprigs of flower buds for multiple harvests. There are purple varieties as well. Broccoli is relatively fast- maturing, and varieties can be planted in spring for summer harvest and summer for fall harvest. Brussels sprouts: Brussels sprouts require the entire season from spring to fall to produce small cabbage-like buds in a spiral around the stalk of the plant at the base of each leaf. Cabbage: Among the brassica crops, cabbage is the most widely grown. Small-headed varieties of cabbage (3 to 4 lbs.) are the most desired varieties for fresh market sales. Some varieties can be planted in spring for summer harvest, and in summer for fall harvest. Others require the entire season from spring to fall to mature. Cauliflower: Cauliflower is relatively more difficult to grow. The most common problems associated with cauliflower production are failure to head properly and poor curd quality. Cauliflower buttoning is the premature formation of curd. When the curd is formed very early in the plant's life, the leaves of the plant are not large enough to sustain its development to a marketable size. Cold temperatures during seedling production or at transplanting encourage buttoning. In order to produce a white curd, leaves are tied over the developing head when it is about the size of a baseball to block out sunlight and blanch it. Self-blanching varieties produce leaves that naturally shade the curd, but they need to be planted closer together to effectively self-blanch, resulting in smaller head sizes. Orange, green, and purple colored varieties, and greenish Romanesco-types do not require blanching. Some varieties can be planted in spring for summer harvest, and in summer for fall harvest. Others require the entire season from spring to fall to mature. Collards: Varieties differ in leaf color and texture, tendency to head, and tendency to bolt. Some varieties may be tender enough to harvest at young stage for salad mixes. Kale: Types and varieties differ in leaf color, texture, and shape. Scotch or Curly kale varieties have frilly leaf margins; cultivar examples include Winterbor, Darkibor, and Redbor (purple-red leaves). Lacinato, also called Tuscan or dinosaur kale, has long narrow leaves with smooth leaf margins and a puckered leaf surface; examples include Black Magic and Toscano. Siberian kale is a different species: Brassica napus var. pabularia. Siberian kale has wavy lobed leaf margins and is somewhat more tender in terms of eating quality than the curly kales; young leaves do well in salad mixes. Varieties White Russian and Dwarf Siberian are examples. The variety Red Russian has sharply lobed leaves with purple veins; leaves are commonly harvested at a small size for salad mixes. Kale flavor is best when grown in cool weather and harvested after a light frost. Mustard: Mustards come in a wide variety of leaf shapes, colors, and textures. Leaves may be harvested for salad or braising mixes when young, or allowed to grow to full size and sold in bunches. Kohlrabi: The edible stem of kohlrabi looks like a turnip growing on top of the ground with sprouting leaves over the surface. Green and purple varieties are available. It can be ready to harvest sooner than most cole crops and therefore can fit well as a crop for farmers markets early in the season. Planting and Spacing Brassicas can be planted from seed, but, aside from baby greens, are more commonly established as transplants. Raised beds (6 inches high, 40 inches wide, with 2 rows 11 inches apart on beds) may be desirable under certain conditions. Broccoli: Rows 3 feet apart. Plants 12 to 18 inches apart in row. Brussels sprouts: Rows 3 feet apart. Plants 18 to 24 inches apart in row. Removing the growing point at the top of the plant when the oldest sprouts are about half their full size can speed development of the remaining buds. Cabbage for Market: Rows 2 to 3 feet apart. Plants 12 to 15 inches apart in row. Cabbage for Kraut: Rows 3 feet apart. Plants 18 inches apart in row.

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